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Kartina Rosli

How Brands Adapt Their Marketing And PR Efforts During The Coronavirus Pandemic

Lessons from China and how other countries can shift their marketing strategies

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

The coronavirus pandemic has affected thousands of businesses in Asia and around the world. Brands are faced with declining revenues and sales as countries go on lockdowns, closure of all non-essential operations and schools. Marketers are grappling with cancelled events, roadshows, and finding alternatives to salvage their campaigns. The big question is – should brand sacrifice marketing and PR efforts to save business costs and staff wages? 

For many, it is a difficult question to answer. Fortunately, based on a finding, only 8% of consumers think brands should stop advertising due to the coronavirus outbreak

As we are all aware, China became the epicentre of the pandemic in early 2020. The pandemic soon spread across Asia, eventually in Europe and the US. For B2B marketers, the crisis came right smack during big marketing campaigns such as Chinese New Year, Valentine’s Day, Easter, and others. The good news is that while China was the first to be hit, they are slowly showing signs of recovery.

A report by Gartner revealed that despite the outbreak, China had maintained relations and connections with their customers. The report added that the outbreak has brought about changes in consumer behaviour, media consumption, use of social and e-commerce platforms, which requires brands to invest in. One key finding in China was that time spent online shot up 20% as people confined themselves to their homes. Live streaming became the de facto online sales and engagement channel, and product and promotion launches on e-commerce platforms remained strong. 

What can other marketers in the other Asia Pacific learn from China? We offer some insights.

Go big online and on social media. With millions of people stuck at home due to social distancing and lockdowns, social media becomes the most effective channel for marketers to communicate their brand messages. Acknowledge that you are in this pandemic together, and as a brand, you still care for your customers. If there are ways you can help your clients during these difficult times, let them know. For example, the cosmetics company Lin Qingxuan in China was forced to close 40% of its stores during the crisis, including those in Wuhan. But they were quick to pivot and redeployed more than 100 beauty advisors from the retail stores to become online influencers. By leveraging digital tools and engaging virtually with their customers on WeChat, the company saw an increase of 200% growth resulting from online sales in Wuhan alone. 

Shifting to other marketing efforts. Take this time to channel efforts and manpower to other marketing efforts that have been on the backburner. Instead of laying off manpower or cutting wages, a premium Chinese travel agency refocused its efforts and encouraged their employees to use their time to upgrade internal systems, improve skills, and design new products and services to be better prepared for the eventual recovery. 

Take advantage of increasing TV viewership. The effect of social distancing, quarantining, and staying home has a significant impact on the way media is consumed, which suggests a rise in media consumption of up to 60%. This, according to “The Impact of COVID-19 on Media Consumption Across North Asia”, published by Nielsen Global Media shows the shift and increase in consumer’s online consumption. The report revealed that Chinese Mainland, being the first to experience the strains of the COVID-19 outbreak, saw an increase in media consumption dramatically rising by 70 minutes to 7 hours and 40 minutes per day among current TV viewers with news and drama genres experiencing the most viewership growth. For marketers, take advantage of the opportunity to invest in advertisements to promote health and well-being products and children’s games and applications that can help the family during these times. 

Look for opportunities using technology. Augmented and virtual reality using technology and live streams with key opinion leaders (KOL) becomes a big hit to showcase products and solutions. For example, British luxury brand Burberry invited KOL Yvonne Ching to visit its Jing’an store in Shanghai and Livestream her experience on Tmall. The session garnered over 1.4 million views within the hour. This is an excellent example for brands to engage and maximise the use of blogs, vlogs, videos, online events, and webinars in replacement of shut down of retail stores, cancelled events, training and workshops. 

Exponential opportunity in e-commerce. In 2003, Alibaba made it big with its e-commerce business model as SARS presented a major challenge to China’s economy with the closure of factories and people confined in homes. It was also the same time that they were planning to launch Taobao, their online e-commerce platform. But the pandemic came as a silver lining as consumers turned to the internet to order online. Brands can consider this alternative pathway to save their business. As I am typing this, two days before Singapore went on a ‘circuit breaker’ measure, Pandora had their online sales, which saw most of their bracelets and charms sold out in 24 hours.

As marketers, the ability to make adjustments to campaigns and be nimble to act to changes in the business and economic climates are crucial factors to divert from experiencing major losses. It is important for us to keep our ears on the ground, and manoeuvre to deliver your products and solutions with tactics that will meet consumer expectations. Continue to reassure consumers on how to help them and use alternative platforms to engage them. Most important takeaway – go digital because that is the only way to survive.

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Kartina Rosli
Written By

Kartina is Marketing In Asia's Editor for Op-Ed. She is also the Founder of Tin Communications. A media specialist with over 20 years of experience in both public and private sectors, she helps SMEs grow their business through strategic media and marketing plans. Connect with her on LinkedIn. You may also reach her by email at kartina@marketinginasia.com.

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