India’s approach to Covid-19 is cloaked in pragmatism: Study

Amrita Nair-Ghaswalla Mumbai | Updated on April 09, 2020

Indian consumers want brands to enhance engagement during the crisis

‘If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?’ appears to be the overarching spirit of Indian consumers.

As an anxious nation waited and watched the world fall victim to Covid-19, it was the sheer pragmatism of Indian consumers that helped when the pandemic came to our doorstep. A new study has shown that what separates Indian consumers from British and Americans is ‘optimism and a sense of community’.

Indians also expect a quick recovery from the pandemic. At 54 per cent, India supersedes global average of 34 per cent in expectations of a speedy recovery, with most willing to work hard to fight it out. However, given the rocky road ahead, the study by Kantar, a data insights and consulting company, showed consumers have been stocking up on essentials and preparing for the worst, despite the palpable optimism.

Noting that the current lot of Indian consumers had, over the years, shed ‘frugality’ and lived it up, the pandemic appears to have made many hit the pause button. Whether consumers will learn to live with less has to be watched, says the report, but brands that stay away at this crucial hour could well run the danger of falling by the wayside.

The study, conducted among 1,100+ samples across 19 cities in 15 States, aims to understand urban India’s sentiments, and expectations from brands during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Covid-19, a disruption

India’s approach to the pandemic is cloaked in pragmatism. Though the insecurities are not very different from the rest of the world, Indian consumers tend to consider Covid-19 more a disruption and not a disease, notes the study.

While 69 per cent of those surveyed were upset about the day-to-day difficulties the pandemic had inflicted on them, it was the disruption that bothered Indians more than health concerns (48 per cent). The same is true across the world.

Consumers in India are not yet concerned (18 per cent) about an economic recession, as compared to Italy (30 per cent) and France (31 per cent), the study showed.

Noting that salience plays a crucial role in brand equity and consumer decision-making, the study showed that Indian consumers want brands to take the fight home, with India leading the pack at 27 per cent, compared to South Korea at 25 per cent, Germany at 23 per cent, France at 21 per cent, the S at 18 per cent and Italy at 15 per cent.

The study urges brands not to exploit the situation. Since consumers expect advertising to help them navigate the new normal with a positive perspective, advertising should show how the brands can be helpful in the new everyday life. The study asks brands to inform consumers about the efforts taken to battle the situation.

Crisis and after

The study adds that strong brands, that continued to engage with their audience, recovered nine times faster following the financial crisis of 2008.

The BrandZ Top10 powerful brands soared 317 per cent, while BrandZ strong brands portfolio jumped 196 per cent. At the same time, the S&P 500 index was up 128 per cent, while the MSCI Word Index was up 59 per cent.

The report highlights that communication is not the only marketing lever that can be used at this time.

Asking brands not to focus on short-term equity and quarterly sales, the study urges them to stand up and show support, especially since 92 per cent of those surveyed said they wished to hear from brands. Asking brands to keep the light on and show people their mettle, the study said they needed to speak to people, and not consumers, at this time.

“Make it less about you and more about them. It is the time to build trust by setting your agenda aside and helping people heal and feel better. Be human, real, vulnerable,”suggested the study.

Published on April 09, 2020

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