Brand bonhomie to combat Covid blues

Meenakshi Verma Ambwani New Delhi | Updated on November 11, 2020

Remember the times of bitter brand rivalries and cheeky trolling over social media? It looks like the Covid-19 virus has sparked off rare bonhomie among competing brands that are now projecting a united front against a common enemy.

Take the way multiplex players set aside their rivalries to express their euphoria collectively on Twitter when the Maharashtra government gave its much awaited nod to cinema halls to re-open.

PVR Cinemas’ official Twitter handle posted, “Hello Mumbai! Suna hai theatres Khul Gaya Hai Teree gully mein, Hasne rone ki awaaz teri gully mein, Ab hoga full dhamaal teri gully mein,” and tagged archrivals Inox and Cinepolis along with Bookmyshow and Paytm.

Inox Leisure was quick to respond, “Bola tha na, Apna Time Aayega! Ab gully mein jo aaya hai, Entertain hoke jayega.”

The banter continued as other industry players pitched in with witty posts, showing solidarity for a sector that has been brutally hit by the pandemic times.

Generous gestures

In January, print ads by HUL’s soap brand Lifebouy urged consumers to wash their hands with any soap nearest to them, whether it was Lifebuoy, Lux, Dettol, Santoor or Godrej No 1.

In July, PepsiCo India did a unique social media engagement by sharing special virtual branded Lay’s packs featuring customised messages of gratitude to more than 20 brands such as Flipkart, Zomato, Dunzo, Britannia, Whisper and Cadbury among others.

More recently, Burger King in the UK grabbed attention by its social-media post urging consumers to order from McDonald’s, KFC, Subway, Domino’s Pizza, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell or “any of the sister food chains”.

Pointing out the need to support the restaurant industry that employs thousands, the note signed off with a tongue-in-cheek, “getting a whopper is always best but ordering a Big Mac is also not such a bad thing”.

Brand strategy expert Harish Bijoor said: “The pandemic has forced many combative and eyeball-to-eyeball competition categories to look more like friends and less like enemies.” He says at a time when consumers and brands are both pushed to the wall, it’s best to be friendly and inclusive.”

Friendly vibes

Literally arch rivals in every sector have been giving off friendly vibes. Last month, when HDFC MD and CEO Aditya Puri retired, among those who expressed their gratitude was ICICI Bank for his contribution to the banking industry.

Was this clever moment marketing or is there more behind this friendly spirit?

According to Jessie Paul, CEO, Paul Writer, the pandemic has increased consumers’ preference for brands that are seen to be ethical and contributing to the collective response against the virus. “When a brand suggests that it is for the good of the consumer to use its competitor or peer, it puts itself on a pedestal and is seen as honest and an industry leader,” Paul says.

N Chandramouli, CEO, TRA Research, said at a time when anxious consumers are cutting back on discretionary spends as they face health and financial uncertainties, coming together of brands for the public good, invokes trust among consumers.

He added that in this highly polarised world, brands cannot risk being seen as aggressive.

The friendly moves by rivals certainly seems to be paying off going by the survey by User Testing, a Human Insight platform, which found that 90 per cent of customers agree to increased brand loyalty for Burger King after reading its letter “Order from McDonald’s”.

Published on November 11, 2020

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