DIRECT MEDIA United Solutions
Takeaways from the DIRECT TALKS From Home 04 webinar “What do brands do when the going gets tough?”
The economic model might not change immediately, but the collapse of the present consumerist model is evident in the long term. What brands do now will enter the subconscious, and memory stays for life, as noted by the participants at the fourth DIRECT TALKS From Home webinar:
Miša Lukić, Founder & Chief Business Designer, New Strategy
Olivera Nikodijević, Marketing Director, Apatinska pivara
Milivoje Čalija, Owner, Čalija&Čalija
Jovan Stojanović, CEO, Direct Media United Solutions
Discussion moderated by Mirko Bunčić, Creative Strategist, Direct Media United Solutions
Brands that (don’t) play dead
“A business is a community of people, and the brand as an emissary of that business must protect the community in crisis — both its customers and suppliers and the local community. If the business continues to be only a community of interest, with no humanity at all, that strips it of resilience to crises like this,” asserts Miša Lukić. According to him, US research reveals that around 25% of companies “played dead” in the first coronavirus wave and 80% reduced communication, while some brands started to communicate proactively, with consumers being more approving of the latter.
In the first days since the pandemic broke out in Serbia, the Apatinska pivara brewery launched a campaign called Stay at the Crib, egging on consumers to act responsibly. “Of course, we could have played dead, but we thought that wasn’t the right way. We developed communication that targeted younger people and imbued it with a dash of urban slang. The best we can do now that people are uncomfortable in the new reality is make it a bit easier for them when they see their brand. They will remember that later, because in times of crisis new bonds are formed between brands and consumers. If the moment is not used properly right away, afterwards it will be too late,” says Olivera Nikodijević.
Microbrand Anđeli, according to Milivoje Čalija, has laid down precisely the ethos and values it lives by, which helped them when the crisis first hit. “It turns out that now it’s paying off. People have started to perceive us as a kind of sanctuary in difficult moments. We’ve never been a stranger to e-commerce, but our delivery service currently works much better than the store when it was open, and which we closed during the pandemic. We can’t say that it’s not hampering our turnover, but we are seeing benefits through a set of emotions and values, which our customers now by and large relate to,” says Milivoje.
According to Miša Lukić, it is extremely important that you do something that is courageous, authentic, and responsible, because at times like these memory stays for life. “There are examples of storydoing, with Ferrari starting to produce ventilators, Christian Dior masks… Those are greater efforts that people appreciate,” says Miša, citing also the supermarket that increased its price each subsequent bottle of disinfectant and demonstrated good goodwill for the market, as well as the furniture maker who created the perfect Zoom background using his own pieces. “The third aspect is storybeing, which is what you actually are when you don’t put profits first. I think that brands must use this moment as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” says Miša Lukić.
“This is a moment of catharsis. Nothing will ever be the same, our thinking and values have changed, and the brand needs to be honest,” says Olivera Nikodijević. According to her, we should expect a resurgence of a stronger emotional component. “The Chinese have found that life’s little things now account for most of online communication, rather than consumerist narratives. By the same token, people are buying at lower prices. For example, England is shifting to the medium price range. When looking at two products on the shelf, they won’t choose the one that says it’s the prettiest and the best, but instead the one that communicates honestly,” says Olivera, noting that brands will have to start adjusting right away if they want to get there on time.
After Covid-19 comes Ecovid-20
According to Milivoje Čalija, this is a historic moment because we have the privilege of participating in the transformation of the paradigm of functioning of the global economy — the changing the present one, which has been rooted in consumerism.
“We have been witnessing the devastation of natural resources. This virus event corresponds to the fact that the current business model is not sustainable. We are amidst a strange crisis in which the humanity decided to shut down the global economy, causing a severe paralysis, with the industries that are booming being the essential ones, while upgrades are set aside until a better time comes,” says Milivoje.
According to Jovan Stojanović, in order to get out of the crisis, the communication industry will need to communicate its important role much more clearly and agencies will have to change the way they operate.
“We will certainly be witnessing significant economic turbulence, and what is necessary is to maintain business continuity, because holding the process back could be very harmful to everyone. We are ones that help brands to market their products and services and ones that most definitely influence the development of the entire economy. And that is why it is important that we communicate our role better than ever before, and that brands continue to communicate, because that is the most significant form of social responsibility towards the entire community. Before all that, we as agencies have an obligation to make sure that our strategies in three months are not the same as before the pandemic,” says Jovan Stojanović.
“This is a crisis that brands must not miss, because after Covid-19 comes Ecovid-20 — the economy Covid. If you haven’t managed to take advantage of this crisis, expect a much bigger and longer one,” Miša Lukić warns. According to him, taking advantage of the crisis means bringing value around you, with brands indeed being able to respond well because of fast decision-making and experience. This particularly applies to our entire country, which could easily start to export crisis leadership. “When we first started developing the business, brand methodology, and philosophy of Business Sapiens — and we’re now planning to launch an academy that will focus on this issue — we somehow anticipated that everything would rest on the relationship in which the business and the brand need to become more human,” Miša Lukić asserts.
Supporting the economy
According to Jovan Stojanović, we will see a new economic bubble after the pandemic, and only the subsequent economic cycle that will not come so quickly will redefine the global economy. In all this we must preserve the national economy. “I am certain that the US will launch a strong ‘made in USA’ campaign to get people to buy local products,” said Jovan Stojanović, noting that this would be a lifeline for our markets, as well. “During this month, everyone found themselves in a situation with no incessant shopping, and the awareness around supporting local must be present in everyone in order to incite the economy,” Stojanović says.
“Facebook group Glas preduzetnika [Entrepreneurs’ Voice] has launched an initiative to use the 100 euros promised by the government for buying local products, which is indeed a necessary appeal, although it might sound isolationist,” says Milivoje Čalija, adding that now there’s the issue of consumer behavior, because they, too, will be facing cash flow problems in the next three to five months. “They will be prioritizing essential items, followed by the ones that they relate to on personal and ethical levels. Those that focused on brand positioning in terms of value will see more benefits,” says Čalija, citing the example of Patagonia, a company selling sports and trekking equipment that has been getting people to send them jackets to patch up for years. “Sales have exploded because people want to be part of a story whose values they share,” says Milivoje.
“The fear that this situation brought about in people is greater than the fear of the disease itself. Overcoming that fear is the ultimate question, but the key is communication,” asserts Apatinska pivara’s Olivera Nikodijević. “On Maslow’s pyramid, we have definitely gone back to basics. European research indicates that people will be increasingly turning to local brands. Borders are closed and the issues of trust and value are pushing consumers in that direction. When it comes to our own brand, we are now entering the second wave of communication, analyzing channels that are currently relevant and trying to anticipate whether it will continue after the crisis. In any event, we are being proactive,” says Olivera Nikodijević.
Watch the webinar here: