The coronavirus outbreak has marked the beginning of a difficult period for most businesses in Asia, but those who have responded appropriately to the crisis may see ancillary benefit in the form of rising brand equity.
Such is the case with the Watsons drugstore chain in Hong Hong, according three key YouGov market research brand metrics obtained by Campaign: The 'Current Customer' score, which looks at how many people have bought from the brand in the past 30 days; the 'Recommend' score, which looks at how many people would recommend the brand; and the 'Buzz' score, which looks at how many people have heard positive things about the brand in the last two weeks.
Prior to the first reported coronavirus-related death in China on January 11, Watsons brand health scores across various metrics remained relatively constant.
After reports emerged of 10 confirmed coronavirus deaths in Hong Kong, residents began queuing overnight outside pharmacies to stockpile facemasks. In response to this, on January 31, Watsons announced on its Facebook page that each of its 230 branches would supply facemasks, and a quota system would be but in place for each customer to prevent stockpiling. The company also reassured customers that more would be arriving in early February while also pledging to donate facemasks to the elderly.
More recently, Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka Shing, who's majority-ownership of the Watsons franchise is well-known, pledged HKD$100 million (US$13 million) to combat the coronavirus. All of these responses appear to have been met with popular approval for the brand.
Since the start of the year, Watsons' Current Customer score has risen from 20.2 to 29.0, a rise of +8.8 points. Its Recommend score has risen from 9.9 to 16.9 , an increase of +7 points. Finally, its score on YouGov's Buzz index has jumped from 8.6 to 25.4, a significant increase of +16.8 points.
“It is great to see big brands respond positively to negative world events, and Watsons has done a good job in delivering their services as a personal care brand," Ervin Ha, YouGov's head of data products, commented to Campaign. "We will continue to monitor the brand to see they continue reacting to the developing outbreak.”