Of cabbages, kings and Coronavirus

Right now most of us find it hard to avoid checking the latest chart on the spread of COVID every few minutes. We check Whatsapp every 30 seconds as a new meme or health advisory pops up. And engage in debates on whether residents can use the gym or not. It’s sort of like having a teenage crush – you know they don’t care about you, but you obsessively follow their every movement. In the little bit of time that is left you have to squeeze in child care, spouse care, pet care, hygiene, AND work.

If your work is not related to increasing sales, then you are (or should be) focused on ensuring business continuity, safety of your team and supply chain, and keeping your products as sanitized as possible. I got a lovely mailer from fresh2home outlining all the steps they are taking to keep their products and teams germ free. Not once did it plead with me to buy their stuff. On the other hand the letters I’m getting from mutual funds are complicated and optimistic at the same time, with a rather desperate desire to hang on to invested money. Sample this one from Sundaram

Coronavirus is a big disruption, not so much the illness as the related travel and interaction restrictions. Also the big distraction of worry. We need to accept that demand for some products will go up, and demand for others will go down. Pretending otherwise is wishful thinking, not good strategy. So what can you do? First, see if there is anything you can do to help stall the virus and do it from the lens of all “touchpoints’ with the brand. This could be offering information like Future Generali Life Insurance or like MyGate which has tied up with mFine and DocsApp for free consultations for all their customers. If you have a digital offering then making it free for a while as many educational apps (Byju’s, Toppr) have done is cool. Or you could be like Apple and shut stores but still pay hourly workers. Or like LVMH which has diverted its perfume manufacturing facilities towards making sanitizer for the French government. Given the number of people working from home, there’s an obvious market for everything from laptops to coffee machines to noise-cancelling headphones. Try to avoid “stress-commerce” pitches – they just irritate people.

Second thing to do is to look at your financial structure and see how you can weather a temporary global downturn. Then, look at your brand. Unless you sell something topical or which people will buy more of in times of stress, you can assume any tactical sales campaigns will not see great results. Even heavily discounted buy now, consume later offers will not have a lot of takers as most people will want to conserve cash. But if you wish to stay relevant here are two ideas – one, make the grand gesture like LVMH and two, use this window for theme campaigns that will deliver benefits in the long run.

This is an opportunity to be good, do good and talk good.

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