Covid-19: How the Pandemic could Alter the Business Landscape for Good
All businesses, corporations and enterprises had planned a robust policy for 2020, to start a new decade with bracing policies and decisions to scale up the business operations, increase sales and revenue; and shore up the profit base.
But there comes the bombshell, the Coronavirus (COVID-19), an epidemic detected on November 17, 2019, in Hubei Province, Wuhan, China, initially taken for granted but later declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The later effect of this outbreak caused unforeseen disruption to global economy, crippling businesses. The oil price plummeted, and for the first time, the US crude oil fell below $1 per barrel. The pandemic brought the global economy to its knees.
For instance, early in January, Apple said it expected its revenue to grow between $63 billion and $67 billon in its fiscal second quarter, however in February amidst the coronavirus pandemic which affects the company’s production in china, the company declared the initial revenue projection was no longer feasible because of “lower iPhone supply globally and lower Chinese demand as a result of the coronavirus”.
As the COVID-19 pandemic brought about a new reality, brands, businesses and organisations had no choice but to proffer new solutions despite their initial forecasts.
This is a challenging situation that opens opportunities for people who are ready to creatively make things happen in a bid to remain in business.
MAKING HOME THE OFFICE
Little did we know that social distancing and working from home would become a global terms and the precondition to remain relevant in business during the pandemic as a result of lockdown and stay at home order imposed to curtail the continued spread on the pandemic. Countries such as the US, UK, China, Nigeria and others too numerous to mention went this route.
The current restrictions and lockdown has made businesses think outside of the box, working from home becomes the new trend. While some businesses are facing overnight cessation of trading and profit making, it’s however a boom for others as they have dramatic spikes in demands and also an opportunity for those who can leverage on the current situation to build Top-of-mind awareness (TOMA) for their brands.
The usual 8am-5pm work on a table, enclosed in a cubicle called office becomes decentralized. Employees are now finding ways of still being relevant as usual even though not at the office environment. Every part of the house becomes a creative hub; the kitchen, the toilet, the dining room or the living room, as work must be done.
Also, online shopping takes the front burner as consumers are embracing all forms of online services to maintain physical distancing. According a research conducted by Kantar, during the lockdown, 66% of consumers are shopping less in physical outlets while 70% are opting for electronic payment options.
CREATING CREATIVE COMMUNICATION
Communicating brand value in time of pandemic like this becomes so delicate that if a brand misses the right communication, it can cause a collateral damage, including total boycott! This is because the people may see it as exploiting the situation or being insensitive to the global plight.
This and more are the challenges businesses can face at this critical time. However, are businesses going to make things happen; watch things happen or keep wondering how things have gone awry? This is an opportunity to task ones creativity, come up with innovative ideas and get qualitative insight for business growth.
This is a time for creative decision making. According to Mr. Olusegun Macmedal, chairman, Nigeria Institute of Public Relations, NIPR, Lagos Chapter, businesses need to respond creatively to survive the onslaught or remain in the backseat after the whole event. “The best approach is to adapt and make the best use of the situation. The other option is to do nothing and perish. But you don’t want to experience that, do you? This is the time to task your brains to do some lateral thinking to generate new ideas which are the stuff of change and progress in every field from science to art, from politics to personal happiness.” He said.
This reiterates the position of a leading advertising agency in Nigeria, X3M ideas in its shapeshifting campaign which insisted businesses must “innovate or die”.
This is a crucial time for public relation departments of the businesses to creatively communicate and communicate effectively in an impactful way especially in the face of the general lockdown. A business that fails to do this risks a more complicated issue on its hands after the pandemic is over.
THE EFFECT ON THE IMC
While the print or broadcast media may still have fair share of the campaigns, those that suffer most are the outdoor industry. According to the chairman of Mediaviews Outdoor, Mr. Babatunde Adedoyin, the outdoor industry at this period is not making much. “Like most other sectors and services, the pandemic has really shutdown our business. No campaign is running, companies are not spending in this direction. The campaigns are put on hold through various memos until after the pandemic. There is nothing we can do”
Also corroborating this point, Jide Adeyemi, Managing Director, Big and Bold Communications, said the covid-19 pandemic has really hit the industry hard and only the strong can survive. According to him, “Marketing budgets have been reallocated and cut down in most cases. Ongoing campaigns stopped in most situations and campaigns that should have broken put on hold.Technology had to take the front seat in our ways of working and only business ready to adapt and innovate will benefit from the shift”
In his word, Steve Babaeko, CEO, X3M Ideas added that, television, Influencer programs and digital communication took the upswing as people are forced to stay at home while Out of home sector received the blow. “The Covid-19 pandemic has totally altered in the immediate term, the marketing communication space. With the stay at home policy meant to flatten the curve, a lot has changed. Investment in Out of home, activation, one-on-one consumer engagements, music, and sports sponsorships all took a major hit.” He said.
BUSINESS THAT LEVERAGED ON THIS
In any crises, there are losers and there are those whose revenue would scale up due to the lockdown. This is a boom period for the telecoms industry, healthcare, retails and food processing industry. The current situation demands their services for survival.
While some businesses can somewhat survive on previous success, for others, this is the period to creatively and consistently put out relatable contents and ideas to remain relevant.
As the World Health Organisation (WHO), made a recommendation for washing of hands as a preventive measure for the spread of the virus, many brands leveraged on that to create campaigns around it. In Nigeria, Hypo, a bleaching product positioned as a disinfectant germs killer, came up with new creative campaign deploying mostly the social media vehicle to reemphasize the brand as an effective germ killer and preventive product against Covid-19. The campaign with the hashtag HypoFightsCoronvirus and HypoAgainstCovid19 gained enormous tractions online and offline as people see the product as the best preventive product for washing of hands. Before now, hypo was mostly known as a bleach product for clothes.
EMBRACING DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY
For years, communication has been transcending to the digital space, while some see this as transient and not viable, others continue to embrace the opportunities inherent in digital media. The Covid-19 has again laid credence to digital communication as the next big thing, giving the fact that world is a global village and what affects one country affects all. It saw the surge in influencer marketing and digital content creation.
Almost all brands and businesses engaged in one campaign or the other to sensitize the people on the need for personal hygiene and other preventive measures to take in combating the spread of the virus.
This became necessary because the pandemic is global and digital campaigns transcend boundaries and brands will like the world to see their campaigns beyond their production environment.
As a result of the social distancing, brand custodians, organisations, artistes and communication experts used the power of digital technology to connect with their clients, customers and fans using platforms like Instagram and Zoom to hold meetings, schedule interviews and communicate.
For the first time, the Nigeria Institute of Public Relations, Lagos chapter, conducted its first virtual PR Clinic themed: ‘Technology and the Future of Work’, to arm participants with the skill sets required to thrive in a fast-changing practice environment. According the Chairman of the Lagos NIPR, Olusegun McMedal , using virtual channel to connect and communicate is necessary at this time as business and communication method have evolved.
“We are living in a different and very challenging time and the current restriction is altering business and work models for almost all the industry and professions. Everyone must evolve and adapt to the new work environment by unlearning and relearning the new skill sets required to survive in the fast-changing world. The Chapter will organise more virtual Clinics to sharpen the competitive edge of our members.” He said.
In the entertainment world, artiste used this opportunity to connect with their fans through live streaming and engagements. One of the live video that got the world talking was the Andrea Bocelli’s Music for Hope live which unexpectedly had over 2.8 million viewers and 26million views in less than 24 hours. Also Nigerian artiste, FALZ made a live video with his fans on Instagram and had over 20,000 views. Other artiste also made use of the lockdown to connect with their fans online to remove boredom and still feel the grove of a party. Thanks to digital technology.
A BOOST TO THE LOCAL MARKET
Necessity they say is the mother of invention, as there was shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) due to rising demand, panic buying and hoarding as result of the Covid-19 pandemic, tailors in Nigeria are now producing face masks using local materials.
In Aba, a commercial and industrial city in Nigeria, tailors are making protective masks using local fabrics, cotton, and polypropylene. To boost this initiative, the Abia state government released a 12 million naira (about $31,000) grant to support tailors to make the protective gear.
The government said the grant was disbursed to 100 selected tailors to help them buy additional equipment, source materials and employ more people. With this initiative, over 65,000 of the face masks had been distributed for use.
In addition to boosting the production of locally made face masks, the Cross River state government announced that it has distributed over one million of face masks to other states in the country and some private organisations. According to the state governor, Ben Ayade, Lagos and Benue states as well as a Kano business mogul, Alhaji Isiaku Rabiu, had placed orders for face masks from Cross River State garment factory. “We have Julius Berger, a construction company that has made a massive order. Shoprite also has made a massive order. We have also received an order of one million masks from Lagos State government.” He said.
Though the pandemic came with lots of threat to marketing communications and the ways of doing business, the Covid-19 crises has also taught us new ways of doing things more efficient and effectively to bring about desired results. It has indeed intensified the importance of working at home, influencer marketing, the effective use of digital communications channels (Zoom/ Instagram) which took the center stage for having official meetings and connecting with fans or customers.
The pandemic has indeed changed the method of communications and it will be great if the marketing communications industry can make use of the lesson learnt this precarious period to better the business post COVID-19 era.