How brands are engaging with their audiences during lockdown

How should brands engage with customers without appearing insensitive or opportunistic during this uncertain period?
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This is part of an article series for the Power List 2020, created in partnership with Twitter as part of their global #LeadersforGood initiative. 

Marketers are no strangers to crisis management. Yet, there are several communications challenges unique to the current crisis. Unlike a cybersecurity breach or employee misconduct, for example, where there are usually immediate solutions and predicted end dates, nobody knows when the current crisis will end, making it impossible to take the ‘let’s wait until this tides over’ strategy. For another, communications avenues have both tightened and expanded in the last few months - live activations and OOH are down, while other existing channels, like eDms and social media, have become communication battlegrounds (how many eDms do you receive every day, compared to one year ago?) Also up of course, is social media, where many feel they can still interact with others without fear of being infected. Here are some examples of how leading brands are engaging with Twitter to communicate with their audiences during this time. 

  1. Google has played a huge role during Covid, include rolling out new tools to help small businesses. Google India’s Twitter page embodies this ethos. From sharing useful info on Covid to raising awareness to help SMEs and carrying out quizzes for a stay-at-home crowd, the platform’s communications during this time appear to be loosely divided into three categories: content that helps, content that educates, and content that encourages interaction. 

  2. Brand communication during Covid doesn’t need to be all doom and gloom. We all need a spot of entertainment during this period of uncertainty. To promote Lenyap (Disappeared), a new true-crime podcast, Spotify Indonesia created a series of ‘create your own adventure’ threads on Twitter. Upon creating a 'scenario', the platform invited users to 'continue the story' in whichever way they liked. One scenario asked if your next door neighbour harbours a dark secret, while another asked you to imagine yourself as a wife returning to a hostile village.

  3. Since the pandemic, Australian supermarket Coles has been a role model in customer communications. Its empathetic messaging on Twitter cuts across demographics - from tweets noting the implementation of dedicated shopping hours for the elderly and people with disability, to communicating on essential item limits, and putting out notices to hire people who have lost jobs due to Covid. 

  4. How do you launch a new product when so many are scrambling just to get basic necessities delivered? That question was perhaps in the mind of marketers at Xiaomi India, the mobile company that has launched a slew of products in recent months. Being empathetic and getting others to join in the conversation are key. To drum up interest for the new Redmi Smart Band, Xiaomi India started a #WhatsYourScore campaign, challenging people to send in their fitness scores. Meanwhile, #MiEcoActive, a campaign to promote a T-shirt made from 100% recyclable plastic, proves timely in an era of rising environmental awareness. 

  5. It goes without saying that revenues for e-retailers have shot through the roof, with many relying on them to deliver basic necessities in the last few months. Yet, how should e-businesses avoid being opportunistic? Understanding your customers’ needs. In the last few months, Amazon India took to Twitter with a simple, coherent message, how to get fulfill your needs in the safety of your homes, through such campaigns as #HarPalFashionable and #AmazonFreedomSale.

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The Campaign Asia-Pacific Team