Author, Aqueb Safwan Jaser
Last year, in the drenched month of July, my office colleagues and I made a short visit to Kaptai, an Upazila of Rangamati District in Chittagong, Bangladesh. There we had encountered ‘Driver-Master’, an aged owner of a shabby food stall. Despite the dilapidated ambience, we were welcomed with a delicious dinner and warm hospitality.
Driver-Master’s generosity was well remembered by all of us. Especially, in this dark phase of our lives, when there is a certain struggle with the marketing strategies. Unlike Driver-Master, most of the brands cannot persuade customers to purchase their products for obvious reasons. Besides, it would be impertinent to do so. But what brands can do is be more generous, more caring like the old owner of the food stall.
In the wake of COVID-19, the customers are least concerned about any product. Rather, they want their loved ones to remain safe and a twinkle of humanity. Brands must show empathy and be more humane than ever. Customers must perceive that brands are beside them in this difficult time. If I were in the shoes of a customer, I’d be deeply touched if any brand conveys true care and warmth in this pandemic.
Remember, it’s the Driver-Master’s cordiality that is well embedded in our minds rather than the delectable dinner. As a matter of fact, most brands quickly adapted to the changing behavioural trend of consumers. At the beginning of the lockdown, LinkedIn made some of its online courses accessible to users while Scribd made their online library available for 30 days. The messages conveyed through ad campaigns also became more human-centric.
For instance, Ford, the American multinational automaker replaced its vehicle-oriented ads with how they are responding to the crisis. In both the spots, “Built to Lend a Hand” and “Built for Right Now,” Ford alludes to its responsibilities during the war and natural calamities.
Another issue that needs to be taken very seriously is social-distancing. While most of us are maintaining this social responsibility, some of us are still negligent. To impose heavily on the importance of quarantining, Coca-Cola came up with a social-distancing message, where the creativity and the chosen location are well thought out. In the crowded Times Square, Coca-Cola ran an ad on the billboard. There was a considerable amount of space between the letters of the brand name whereas, on the regular days, the brand name is written in tightly connected Spencerian script.
Going back to our dear Driver-Master, I must mention another thing that he is well-remembered for. Despite the poor ambience of his food stall, he even provided complimentary items to make our dinner more relishing. On the contrary, lavish restaurants attempt to rip our wallets off. After all, money is an essential component of any business. Likewise, Driver-Master could have charged us more for financial benefits, but as strange as it may seem, he didn’t.
In this crucial time, brands must provide financial help to those who are in need. As a customer, I was very overwhelmed to know that several brands have already taken this approach. For instance, Nike has pledged to commit more than $15 million to support the efforts made in response to COVID-19.
To conclude, brands, both Bangladesh and all over the world, must be more empathetic and transparent just like Driver Master. While some brands have already taken the approach, the community spirit will be ignited brighter if all the brands tagged along. Then our hope to tackle this unseen enemy shall be reinforced.
And if you are wondering how Driver-Master got his name, well, he used to be a truck-driver before setting up his food-stall. His sagacity may have earned him the title of “Master”. Driver-Master’s sole ambition is to provide a memorable experience to his customers. And I must say, he was very successful in this regard. May we all have the heart to be larger than life like our dear old Driver-Master.