Date of Publication: 2 May, 2020

Scope of Online Branding During the #Lockdown and Beyond - Indian Business Perspective

• Are you worried about your brand with this extended #Lockdown around the world?  Do you think online branding could be the answer?

This blog could prove real handy. In this blog post we will discuss the challenges and opportunities of this phase.

Don’t forget,

Every challenge, every problem,

is an opportunity in disguise.

Anirban Guha

Anirban Guha

Digital Marketing Expert | Media Strategist | Entrepreneur

Table of Contents


Not just Business, but life itself has taken a huge impact from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Everyone have switched on their survival mode today, empowered with a hope of a brighter future holding onto those brighter bygone days. When the lockdown was extended till 3rd May, Nomura Financial Advisory and Securities (India) Private Ltd. had speculated the Indian GDP to have a negative growth of 0.5%. Now imagine the situation if the lockdown is further extended. In the fear of getting infected, newspapers have stopped coming home, as a result the print advertising has taken a beating, same or probably worst hit are the outdoor and event companies. Traditional advertising seems no longer the viable option for businesses. Though some expert analyze it as short term phenomenon, but one cannot ignore the exponential growth of digital media and eCommerce in this phase.  Hence, a lot of companies are discovering the many merits of advertising their products online while keeping in touch with their consumers.

Dun & Bradstreet, based on data source from Ministry of Commerce & Industry, MSMEs, D&B Survey,  indicates sectors like Retail (non-food items), Wholesale (non-food items) and Livestock though severely affected will see a short term recovery once the things normalize, while Logistics and Metal industry will have recovery at a moderate pace. However, industries like Automobile, Entertainment, Banking, Gems and Jewellery, Tourism, Hospitality, Electronics and SMEs will take very long time to recover.


The New Dynamics​

  1. India is going online. From Paying bills to social interaction to fulfilling entertainment needs Indian are adapting to the online culture. This is the new normal. According a survey, there has been 40% increase in WhatsApp Usage, 313% increase in interest for Online
    Meetings on Google trends, 4% increase in searches related to Online Banking, 73% increase in Live Aarti searches, increase of 32% in ‘Online grocery’
  2. Indians have adopted to a higher standard of hygiene. The survey reveals that 90% consumers intend to continue the standards. 5437% + increase in searches related to Sanitizers, 3460% increase in searches related to Handwash, Increase in ‘How to wash hand’ searches by
    643%, the monthh of March also saw 108,579 conversations around ‘hygiene’.
  3. Contrary to what many experts think, India is not living in the ‘present’. Nostalgia and hope of the better future is how the lockdown is being dealt with. However, this might me a temporary sentiment. 81% growth in searches and 93,133 conversations around nostalgia and by gone days. It has also been found that 69,086 conversations happened in the internet around ‘motivation’
  4. Certain unhealthy habits like smoking and liquor consumption will go down drastically. Searches for ‘quit smoking’ have spiked up by
    28.50% within a month.
  5. Work From Home (WFH) is going to be the new office culture. 115% jump in WFH searches, 220% increase in online meeting apps searches during Lockdown. If the survey is to be believed whopping 65% new users have initiated their online meetings and video chats.
  6. Most of us who previously had zero kitchen hours experience are learning their culinary skills. If you are a cooking recipe blogger things are pretty rosy. 28% and 110% surge in searches for Cooking Recipes and  Easy-to-cook respectively.
  7. The household grocery list has changed. Some are temporary but some changes will remain permanent. It is noted that, 100% increase in cleaning/ washing items, 70% ordered ingredients which are not regular part of the grocery list, 45% purchased new beauty aids like
    hair removal creams/ strips, hair colour, face pack, etc., ‘Online Grocery’ search interest increased to 32% in March.
  8. Learning new things have suddenly become a fad. People are trying to acquire new skills and certifications to facilitate themselves in post COVID19 world. 48% increase in online courses, 22% jump in Free Courses searches Searches related to Skillshare, LinkedIn, coursera, up by 60%, 108% increase in Online training platforms.
  9. Wardrobe is going through a change. Lack of comfortable wear is a new realization.
  10.  Namaste is Global now.112% growth in ‘Namaste’ searches within a month.

Reports and surveys can only introduce you to the game. It remains how you play the game or you to change the game?

What are Smart Brands doing???

Smart brands have found impactful ways to remain in the minds of their customers, followers, and markets by leveraging their goodwill without pushing traditional offerings, viz, the Lifebouy Ad. Some brands like Amul trying to cash on with the nostalgia. Did you see that amazing ad made by few of the stalwarts of Indian cinema asking you to stay at home, an amazing ad by Kalyan Jewellers in collaboration with Sony Pictures Network. However, it creates a lot of backlash when you play with a thin line. A classic example is the “Wuhan se yahan le aaye!” ad by Amul. It created a lot of furrow in the media.

Along with copy, what is critical, is the choice of media and the strategy. Unlike these bigger brands, smaller brands do not have resources of that magnitude to exploit. In spite of sensing opportunity, lack of understanding of the new age media is prohibiting smaller brand to go live. Though some are adventurous and taking up the challenge, more often than not, hasty decisions are proving counter productive, leading to capital erosion, without any favorable result. Lock down is new to everyone, consumer behaviors have changed. Digital strategies that worked few months earlier are no longer relevant.

To succeed with Online Branding, in this trying scenario, we need to first understand where the consumer is and what is it they are doing more often?

The statistical understanding is the key to answering these question. Relying on expert opinion, even from top veterans, will only result in you shunning the media. It is the time to get introduced to ORM & CRM tools. It will help you understanding what is going on around and how people are perceiving your brand, viz-a-viz your competition, along with many more critical information, that could help you optimize your budgets.

Some tools are listed below:

1. Insightly

2. Social Studio

3. Supermetrics

What is most important to optimize a campaign, is to first have a clear focus on objective, Target Audience and Goal. All in measurable quantities.

You should always keep in mind, that it is a very different world now, and when the dust finally settles, it will further change and probably beyond recognition.

You might have a very legitimate query in asking, “Shouldn’t I lay low now?

With this kind of economic conundrum, it is seems a obvious choice to fall back into a cocoon and wait till the environment is conducive. But believe me it could be detrimental not just for your brand but business as a whole.

You must not overlook the fact that most people now are idle at home, being exposed to different things, opening up new opportunities. Right now if your are out of sight, you will be out of mind.

In Hindi, we have a saying, “If you lay low, koi aur apki lelega…
There are opportunities in plenty for those who can spot them and use them for shared, long-term gains instead of narrow, short-term profit.

With this kind of phenomenal growth of digital media platform, it becomes imperative you choose the platform wisely to gain your share of culture. With investing in the online platforms you might not sale much, but if you sail along this period with your audience, you could recover much faster than any report predicts. Who know you can become the leader.

Will you take up that challenge?

The pandemic and the lock-down has pushed us to the confines of our homes. All we say is, “thank God we have the internet to help pass the time”.

During lockdown people have embraced the online media to the point whereby we’ve registered an unprecedented rise in screen time. To plan your strategy, you first start with understanding which are the platforms that are doing well.

# 1> Understanding Impact of COVID 19 on Digital Media Consumption

News Sites

As per reports by Comscore, the visit of website and mobile apps in the “General News Category” has increased by staggering 61% in the third week of March compared with the week of Feb. 10-16, 2020. This increase is speculated to go up further as India extends the lockdown beyond 3rd of May. The “Business News Category” has had a rise of 22% with new users between the 2nd and 3rd week of March 2020. The total visit during this period saw a rise of 34% while the time spend increased by 22%.

Government Sites

Many of us by now are well aware of the, we alteast visit the site once in a day to check out the COVID stats.

Compared with the second week of March, the pubic sector websites and mobile apps have registered 29% increase in unique visitors. Engagement increased by 39%, and time spent by 27%.

Healthcare Sites

There are lot many things happening in Healthcare. People are not just looking for information on COVID19, but general health as well. People with long term illness are in continuous look out for new information about how they can avail critical health services. With few of hospitals being quarantined, it has jeopardized people with critical illness like Cancer and diabetics who need dialysis. Not to mention, heart patients, who are in need of post operative check ups or in line for a CABG or alike, are surfing these sites like never before for possible availability. This has resulted in the rise of visits by 25% between second and third week of March, 2020 and counting.

The pharma apps and sites have registered a visitor growth of unimaginable 146%, in the same period out of fear as consumers braced themselves for a possible extended lockdown.

Sports Sites

Sports is an affected category. As the sporting events across the world have stopped, visits to websites and mobile apps in this category declined by 76%; total minutes spent on this category declined by 87%.

Travel & Hospitality Sites

Travel & Hospitality has unpredentally declined. Travel site and app visits declined by 55% between second and third week of March 2020. Airlines declined by 53% while mobile cabs declined by 43% during the same period.

Online Gaming Sites

With being stuck at home, idle, quite few number people in India are finding solace through online gaming. Visits to online gaming websites or apps increased by 24%. Engagement, as measured by time spent on gaming sites or apps, increased by 21% during the same time period.

Social Media Sites

It would be difficult to find people who though being online do not visit social media sites. Facebook, Instagram and twitter are ruling the roost in India. According to an article published in Economic Times, on 28 March, Neilson had reported a 50X rise in social media volume between January and March, 2020, in India. As per the report social media buzz jumped from 0.4 million in Jan ’20 to 20.3 million till 24th March 2020. With the trend going upward it is expected to rise to an skyrocketing level in mid May’20 with the extended lock down.

Online Streaming Sites

When you talk of streaming in India, major players are Netflix, YouTube, Amazon, Hotstar Disney, Zee5, Voot and others. Almost all major players have reduced their streaming quality to SD to meet up with the sudden surge, as the visitor binge on local contents. From this I guess it is pretty apparent how the platform is rising in COVID affected India.

Based on the reports and statistics available to you, choose the platform you can best leverage, for your brand. You must be sure about where the core audience flock to. Splurging everywhere and hoping for a return would never actually happen, especially not now. There are various statistics available to fine tune the choice of platform. You can even choose the ORM tools for your benefit.

Every brand in every category will have a different approach towards selection of the online platforms and niches, based on the Products / Services, Target Audience, Geography, USP and off course Budget.

# 2> Be Discerning and Concerned

Researches have found that people like brands who chose to communicate about the crisis at hand. However, it is advised that the messaging must be supportive of local governments’ and health organizations, while staying true to their brand values.

There is a popular expectation that companies should use their might, however big or small, to play a part and be active in the online media, though not to exploit the situation, but for common good. One such is the commercial we spoke of in the previous section. Some brands have even gone to the extent of reinventing their logos to carry social messages.

The Social distancing message have caught the imagination of many brand marketers especially when communicating in social and digital media.

Find below how brands should communicate during these exceptional times:

# 3> Audience First Approach is Critical

Audience first is not a new concept, however, when you release your branded content it must be in tune with what your audience wants to see. As discussed earlier, this will be vastly differ per brand. So, we don’t claim to have a thumb rule, as it’s not a one size fits all strategy. However, here’s a couple of things you could consider:

Keep Your Communication Real & Authentic

Try making home grown content, especially, when you are operating on social media. When you keep content unpolished, people find is easier to relate and connect. This is more important now than ever before.

Right now, people cannot relate to decked-up sets, beautiful models and hyper-realistic ambience; they are sitting at home probably with t-shirts and shorts at best.

Interact With Your Audience​

The Greek Philosopher, Aristotle said, “Man is by nature a social animal…” Today he is isolated and craving to connect and be seen. Creating a campaign to bring them on, to help them express themselves, to make them a part of something, will go a long way to make advocates and increase your brand’s share of culture. People are just sitting at home, it’s the time to get creative with different platforms, features and functions that foster interactivity with audiences.

Something that’s happening now with most of us working from home, is that, we can no longer rely on big-scale production for content. Which makes everyone is on the same level playing field as each other.

The production I don’t mean has stopped but we are doing it differently. Even the term “in house” doesn’t mean the same as it use to. We are literally working from our homes and not under a common roof. This definitely is creating lot of challenges, but the internet and digital media has provided a bouquet full of exciting ways to connect and communicate with your audience. You can explore them now.

You can try for:

Live Broadcasts on Social Media – Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and TikTok  are all platforms that have seen the use of the Live function more than double in the past week.

Play with AR and VR – Use of Augmented Reality and Virtual reality in your content has the potential to increase engagement. Give them, your audience, a feeling of what it is to be outside, help them enjoy the beauty of the outside world.

I understand, the economic crunch, market instability and unclear future is blurring our vision to plan and strategize. For many brands, especially in SME category, the expenses for digital exposure may appear to be unwisely. But what this situation offers you, is the scope to create a brand, which might help you recover faster when the dust settles down. Some businesses could even boom up during this period. Some a leader in the long run.

However, even with the will and might, it might be a little difficult to plan, especially, when all business dynamics are going through a sea change.

It is very hard to put across a thumb rule for dividing your budgets in Social Media Platforms, Content Management, PR Networks and Native & Google Ads. But if you follow the principles sketched out here and be clear about the statistics related your audiences, chances are, with a little bit of patience, you might land up with a winning score ultimately.

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