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Unlock-Lock-Unlock: New Marketing Tactics for the New Normal

by Mahadev Srivatsa, Vice President - Marketing & Brand Strategy, Practically

September 15, 2021    7 min read

Since the emergence of the pandemic, the advertising world has changed for marketers and brands. Companies adopted measures like work from home and digital marketing became the favorite child overnight, all in a bid to adapt to what was coined ‘the new normal’. What was earlier a season to go all out with respect to advertising, now comes loaded with uncertainties. Pandemic waves are seen resurfacing one after another, almost catching everyone unawares and the government, to safeguard health interests of the nation, has been announcing periodic lockdowns. This upsets all meticulous planning that brand managers would have done to promote their next campaign. This is what is seen creating a new normal in advertising as companies have started to make their marketing plans foolproof to the pandemic, especially given the realization that this scenario is going to stay and it will be a while before we all conquer covid.

In a pre-pandemic era, most industries advertised heavily during the first and third quarters and if budgets permitted, the last financial quarter, as well. Monsoon for many was always a lean period, while Sept-Dec was the festive season which saw maximum participation across sectors. Real estate used to always pitch in post Oct after the ‘Shraadh period’ since that impacted sales. Now all of these industry-specific trends have undergone a change and most are following the unlock pattern.

Brands are no longer waiting given the uncertainties these days. Whenever unlock gives the opportunity, they are seen cashing in and making the most of the now, rather than planning for the future. With respect to advertising campaigns, almost all sectors whose sales were summer-led (Consumer durables, Travel & Tourism, FMCG etc) and others who leverage the festive season (Auto, E-commerce etc) have been actively participating in this JAS quarter. In fact, the sectors whose peak season was impacted during the second wave, are seen leading advertising in this quarter wanting to make up for it, before third wave fears impact their business and marketing plans again. While experts are anticipating a third wave of Covid-19, advertisers are making the most of this time, without waiting for the festive season to loosen their purse strings. One will also see sectors benefitting from the pandemic for eg. e-commerce, ed-tech, gaming etc. and digital-first businesses making the most of this time and spending throughout the year. In fact, one can already see these brands make a beeline for big-ticket impact events like IPL 2021, T20 World Cup and entertainment shows like Big Boss and Kaun Banega Crorepati.

The choice of medium for marketing is always dependent on the product and TG. As a marketer, one always selects the optimum media mix desired for a launch or communication. Besides OOH, Print as a medium was hampered during the lockdown which further impacted the circulation figures and advertisers had to move print spends to Digital and TV. But till date, it remains an authentic and trusted medium by consumers and hence no advertiser can continue to ignore it. While TV and Digital will continue to dominate, what percentage of spends print will occupy in the new normal will vary at an industry level. Off late, one can see print too making a comeback, with newspapers going from size zero pandemic levels to healthier ones again! According to a GroupM TYNY report, the print medium which bore the deepest impact of the lockdowns is expected to grow by 23% in 2021, along with television by 18% and digital by 28%.

While television will continue to rule the charts in terms of spends, digital will be second in line as it is witnessing unanticipated growth. As viewers are becoming more aware of brands, one-on-one connect with the customers will be the trend for the upcoming season which is where we can expect digital ruling the roost. With increasing internet penetration in Tier 2 and 3 cities, some brands might perhaps go entirely digital to make their plans foolproof to uncertanities.

Advertising on OTT platforms is another big trend catching steam thanks to the pandemic. As people are working from home and restricted in their movement outdoors, OTT platforms have seen a major surge in viewership and subsequent investments from content creators. This has led brands to add this new channel of spends to their marketing mix.

Consumers too have adopted to these trends and are making purchases without waiting for any auspicious time of the year or an occassion. They are seen travelling extensively during unlock periods all in a bid to ‘live in the now’ which is being termed as ‘revenge tourism’ that is encouraging for the economy and businesses as well.

As the Government is gearing up to handle the third wave of Covid-19 and vaccination is picking up pace across the country, we can definitely hope that the worst is behind us and we are on the road to recovery. While we cannot predict the future, it is important to help brands make a successful comeback and progressively start building confidence in the economy. It is better to forget the disastrous past and hope for advertisers to return to advertising and all advertising mediums to benefit, infusing normalcy in the industry and more importantly people’s lives.

The article first appeared in Agency Reporter on 1 September 2021

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