Brands are sharpening their focus on regional markets amid COVID-19 crisis

As India unlocks after almost three months of lockdown, the industry is gradually commencing operations, however, it will be a long time before things return to a semblance of normalcy – or perhaps things will never return to normal. Several companies are continuing with the Work From Home operations, while some are opening with minimal staff. The fear of infection is all pervasive and strict hygiene protocols are in place.

In the meantime, consumer behaviour has changed a lot during the lockdown period, how permanent these changes will be only time will tell. Brands have taken to digital in a significant way to create engagement with consumers even as they mostly stay at home. With print circulation limited during the lockdown, OOH almost at a halt during this period, Television and Digital have been the media platforms that brands have been leveraging the most.

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While stating that the COVID-19 crisis has had a major impact on every business, Dr Sanjay Arora, CEO, Shells Advertising, observed, “We saw traditional media, viz. Print and Outdoors take a huge hit and were down nearly 90 per cent. But at the same time we had new digital clients come into our fold. Digital did see a sudden spurt, especially in categories such as healthcare apps, etc. All local brands had completely stopped promotions throughout April and most of May.”

At the same time, he noted that the business seems to be slowly coming back. “I don’t think we will see any major activity very soon. Most of the activities are either highly need-based or some earlier contracts with media that need to be completed,” he added.

Speaking about Shells Advertising, Arora said, “We are a full service advertising and digital marketing agency. We had diversified into digital around 7-8 years ago, hence we could seamlessly shift into the work-from-home model and continue to service our clients.”

For Kavita Koserwal, Co-Founder and CEO, Orcomm Advertising, business has not been so grim. She said, “During the lockdown, we’ve got new businesses and also our regional clients became very active. The education we’d given to them was to keep communicating with the TG in these times of crises. There was a strong shift to digital. This lockdown period has been extremely busy for us and most clients were ready to innovate and change the communication.”

Consumer preferences and buying behaviour has changed during these times, with the demand for Food, FMCG and Healthcare products growing. Giving an insight into the changes in consumer behaviour, Khushboo Solanki Sharma, Founder, Zero Gravity Communication, said, “A lot of things like books, electronics, non-urgent household goods, etc., that can be easily purchased online, will be preferred that way. Window shopping and leisurely mall trips are still far from happening.”

She saw a subtle difference between the consumer behaviour in bigger cities and metros vis-a-vis smaller towns, that haven’t seen the large number of COVID-19 cases as the bigger cities. “Almost all brands have turned their focus on the smaller towns to not lose out on the possible opportunities. Advertising has, for sure, pivoted to digital platforms. Challenge here is that regional players do not have the right tools to understand the whats and hows of digital. Smaller product portfolio brands are aggressively pushing themselves in these markets. While budgets are being curtailed to be more effective and measured, brands know that they will have to advertise to stay in touch and be relevant to consumers.”


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