Do you realise that our reality may have a complete turnover post-Coronavirus? We are actually living through a history book, because some things may never get back to normal. As such, the new normal may be more permanent than we actually think. This new normal has affected economies at large, including the parties involved in both local and international trade, that is, buyers, sellers, governments, and other stakeholders. Luckily for us, an African agency network called Scanad has debunked The New Normal Consumer in a recently released report.
The essence of marketing is in understanding the target audience and niche fully. That’s what makes International Marketing a completely different unit from regional marketing and even local marketing. Even within these smaller structures, the consumers differ. In Nairobi for example, the way you market a product in Lavington will be completely different from the way you do in South B. As such, marketers are tasked with the responsibility of constantly researching and adapting to changes, both simple ones and drastic ones such as those that have come with the pandemic.
Chief Executive Officer of Scanad, Mr. Sandeep Madan says that marketers are dealing with a new breed of consumers. Now more than ever, brands need to take responsibility to lead and serve as opposed to capitalizing on the existing crisis. This calls for them to act beyond communication, serve new needs, and maintain brand momentum. Here are a few highlights of this report.
The report examines the impact of the pandemic on the Kenyan economy so far. First and foremost, the Kenya Shilling is under pressure due to reduced forex earnings mainly on account of reduced exports. The flower sector is losing approximately 250 million shillings per day and is estimated to lose half of its value (60 billion shillings) by the end of 2020. Consequently, 30,000 temporary workers have been laid off and another 40,000 permanent ones sent on unpaid leave.
As a result of the economic strain by the unprecedented crisis, approximately 435,000 people have been laid off from their jobs. This has lowered their purchasing power and reduced their standards of living drastically. It’s much more serious than we imagined it would be. 54% of Kenyans have received a salary cut. In short, just about every single Kenyan has been affected financially by the pandemic.
Everyday survival has become an uphill task. People are now unable to pay rent, service their debts, and pay for utilities. To make it worse, as per the report, inflation levels have risen. It’s a snowball effect because sellers are now forced to increase prices on goods due to lower demand so that they can meet their own needs.
The report also highlights the fact that while we are all facing this crisis at the same time, it is not likely to be an equalizer of social classes. It classifies these social classes into three: the survivors, the middle, and the top. These three classes of people have all had to adapt in their own way. They are all affected in their own way. As a result, new desires, attitudes, perspectives, and internal conflicts have been formed and have evolved over time.
For example, initially, we faced a lot of catastrophizing, characterized by excess anxiety and panic buying. As we settled into the new normal, Kenyans turned to humour on the internet as a necessary coping mechanism. The media has played a role in spreading information and hope but also in spreading gloom and panic.
The issue at hand is the reaction of brands to the crisis, and how it is likely to affect them once the pandemic is over. It is interesting to note that this is fully dependent on the nature of the business. However, as per the report, most brands share one thing in common. For most businesses the economic outlook has been gloomy, finance departments are worried and marketing budgets have taken significant hits. However, this hasn’t stopped some brands from responding appropriately and decisively.
Companies have reacted and adapted differently to maintain customer relations. Airbnb announced that it will now offer exotic ‘experiences’ that are entirely digital so travellers who are practising social distancing or staying at home can find activities to do remotely. Clients of SEB (an Estonian Bank) can now have an overview of their financial matters through video calls at a comprehensive consultation. Closer home, Safaricom has amplified its loyalty program – Bonga Points – enabling customers to pay for goods, utilities and donate to those in need. Perhaps the most fascinating adaptation is the fast-food chain, Burger King, that is testing ‘social distance crowns’ that keeps customers six feet away from each other, as restaurants reopen dine-in service.
The lesson to be learnt, as per the report, is that this is a humanitarian crisis and therefore not an opportunity to capitalise on. Instead, this is a time for brands to take responsibility, to lead and serve.
It concludes by pinpointing three key principles that can help brands continue to stay meaningful in the lives of consumers, in this dynamic new normal. First, action beyond communication that calls for tangible brand interventions. Secondly, serve new needs and identify how your business can incorporate these new needs into your product proposition. Lastly, to maintain brand momentum by remaining at the forefront even as demand returns partially and fully.