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While the overall industry situation remains bleak and grim, the silver lining in this crisis for businesses and brands is that they have an ample opportunity to forge new and strengthen current relationships with consumers.

Following this, brands are now going beyond the conventional and establishing a human-to-human connection to earning customer allegiance via various contests, entertaining content and challenges for the audiences.  

McDonald’s last week brought Instakshri (Antakshari) on Instagram and has been posting engaging content in the form of games, puzzles and even routine recommendations.

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It is also imperative to keep young minds engaged and active amidst the current situation of a mandated lockdown. Keeping this in mind, Shoppers Stop and Crossword in association with Momspresso and Penguin Publications have launched interesting storytelling sessions especially designed for young minds. Celebrated authors like Tazmeen Amna, Anushka Ravishankar, Deepa Agarwal, Shaguna Gahilode, Ruskin Bond and Paro Anand will be reading their books to the children every evening. Shoppers Stop’s initiative, #OnceUponABook will help children learn and at the same time keep them entertained while they are confined at home.

SleepyCat, on the other hand, is engaging the users with puzzles, quizzes, and trivia on social media while curating asleep playlist that people can tune into to get peaceful sleep.

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In a move to evoke nostalgia among consumers, dairy giant Amul has posted all its ads played during the 80s and the 90s on Twitter.

But why such communication is important for brands?

Venkatesh Parthasarathy

Venkatesh Parthasarathy, VP Marketing, Lotte India, said that in this lockdown situation, many are facing physical, emotional and financial strain. Meaningful messaging and personal connections are the best ways to reach out to consumers.

Lotte is running daily posts seeking to distract consumers. Some posts also carry positive action messaging and contests, which seek to actively engage with their customers.

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Arvind RP

“In these challenging times, people are turning more to digital platforms and especially social media for reassurance, engagement and to connect with friends.  It is important for us to be a part of their lives during these unprecedented times, even if it is in a small way by keeping them engaged, entertained and reassured,” said Arvind RP, Director, Marketing and Communications, McDonald's India (West and South).

Goldee Patnaik

Goldee Patnaik, Head of Marketing, itel, said it is a fundamental responsibility for all to safeguard human lives by informing, educating and entertaining customers at the same time to keep up the morals. Inspiring videos, funny content and innovative ideas, etc., can safeguard mental health during isolation.

itel has tapped high engagement-led video platforms such as TikTok, Helo, Facebook and WhatsApp by announcing initiatives such as challenges, quiz and games to help the audience cope up with anxiety and stress caused due to the outbreak.

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Besides this, it is planning to launch a blog series that will largely talk about digital awareness around various necessities of life and capture tips and tricks around fitness and health, etc.

Meanwhile, Revolt, the electric mobility start-up, is using this time to create content that can keep customers hooked to the brand and keep aspirations high. It is also working on a music playlist that it’ll be seeding through its social media soon to keep customers stay tight at their home premises and enjoy music with #UnlimitedLove.

In fact, Asian Paints has joined hands with artists and musicians for the first performance of #LiveFromHome. To engage with the audience through Instagram stories, suggestions were taken for songs they would love to sing.

Chandni Shah

Chandni Shah, COO, Kinnect, which is the agency behind Asian Paint’s #LiveFromHome campaign, said, "Amid a crisis that poses an unprecedented humanitarian challenge, people's mental well-being is the most affected. The internet is buzzing with negative news, and to this, all we wanted to do was use the internet to encourage people's mental well-being. Through #LiveFromHome, we are urging people to stay at home and stay safe. The idea is to be able to diffuse panic and extend happiness, positivity, and uplift moods."

To propagate happiness and joy, Havmor is not only ensuring that its creatives are bright and peppy but is also routinely creating original material that engages the audience.

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Shekhar Agarwal

Shekhar Agarwal, Head of Marketing, Havmor, said, “Staying on top of mind is important. Doing that correctly and keeping the audience captivated is a huge win. If we make ourselves a part of their everyday lives, be it their struggles, their joys, their routines, their exciting adventures, the audience invariably feels comforted and responds positively from there.”

Initially, boiler-plate content was being pushed out about Corona awareness and general impact messages. However, brands now are trying to engage with their TG by some cool in-home, group activities.

Kartik Johari

Kartik Johari, Vice-President, Nobel Hygiene, said brands prove themselves in times like this.

“Everyone's ability to think and create new, engaging content is being tested right now. Only superior content will work now, nothing else. People have surprisingly less patience now, as they're all crammed into their own lives. The tiny screens in their hands are the only escape from the constant watchful eyes of the house. Thus, their expectations are higher, and consequently, a simple bingo quiz will only go so far. Humans are social creatures by design, and even more so in India. Brands have an important role to play now in mitigating this mental solitude,” he added.

Suman Nandy

Suman Nandy, Founder of ePaathsala, which has launched online gaming content for students for engagement, said, “In difficult times, if there are certain products and services that are making it easier for the customers to deal with the unique challenges presented due to lockdown, it is likely to help build certain affinity towards such brands and customers are likely to continue using it post lockdown. Also, since the lockdown is pervasive and is for an extended period, there are probabilities of change in customer behaviour or priorities post lockdown as well. And it is likely that they will continue using the same product that they are using during the lockdown.”

Brands believe that engaging customers and entertaining them during this outbreak will definitely build greater affinity as well.

“The customers truly appreciate the efforts a brand puts in to serve them in the best way possible. They get a better understanding of how much the brand really cares about their interests and values them when it matters the most,” Arvind said.

Anirban Sen

Anirban Sen, Business Head of Chewing and Confectionery at Godfrey Phillips India, said that this a time when brands can imbibe a new value system of care and social awareness permanently; a fine balance of core brand expression in the new context can create an even stronger affinity with brands.

However, the key is the quality of brand communication, relevance and context.