Nooring: A Good Crisis Is Almost Wasted
Demonetisation, for all its pros, was a tough time for all, and a great opportunity nonetheless. But did marketers make the most of it?
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It is crisis galore, and there is no way to sugarcoat it. The demonetisation move in India has many ‘rights’ to it — right move, right intent, right direction and may be even right time. But as is the case with all the rights and the wrongs that take place in the world’s largest democracy, the common man suffers, as always. The demonetisation has triggered a domino effect in the country that has subsequently hit the marketing and advertising industry. At a troubled time such as this, marketing could have been the most important tool for any company.
The sharp decline in demand, as a consequence of people rationing cash, has forced marketers to revisit their advertising play; some campaigns are being postponed and some even cancelled. The industry is divided into two, challenging the spirit of collaboration and that is another story. That said, it does not matter if it is India or the world’s most sophisticated advertising market, during any crisis that leads to tightening of purse strings, the first expenditure to take a hit is marketing.
The case of demonetisation in India reiterates the very phenomenon. And therein lies the big question. Every year, the wisest and the brightest in marketing visit global advertising and marketing forums and soak up the stories of gumption that have changed fortunes of companies and established them as global thought leaders brands. They discuss maverick moves that involve going out on a limb — spending more instead of cutting losses to create a place for brands in consumers’ life and evoking a difficult-to-buy loyalty. But rare are such opportunities that allow a chance to fortify trust between consumers and brands.
Demonetisation is one such opportunity. It has impacted the whole nation — from the grass root level to across all social strata. And at this time, everyone, from entrepreneurs, professionals, salaried and daily wage earners to students, housewives and older target audiences, can do with some positive messaging.
And yet, there are only talks of postponement and cancellations of campaigns, with industry’s leaders locking horns on the right route for that. There is barely anything that can qualify as a brand speaking to its consumers during a tough time.
Some exceptions are digital-led brands such as e-commerce players, payment wallets companies, and the banking and financial institutions, who in some cases behaved like their moment, has come. There is logic to that as well; they are only selling their very relevant products. Some of this communication was required — banks are playing a significant role in weathering the demonetisation storm, assisting people as much as they can, and in all the occasions they can.
But where are the messages to forge bonds? When I discussed this with various industry leaders — some asked me what is it that a brand can do? After all, this is no recession, nor is it the kind of crisis that we have faced before. There are barely any precedents and this may not even last for too long. But isn’t that exactly the puzzle that needs to be solved? Did marketers ask their agencies — the most creative minds of this business — to look for a solution or to explore what this crisis means? And did they not get answers to that? Who is taking the risks? Who is pushing the envelope? Where are the famous crazy ones?
Winston S. Churchill had said “never let a good crisis go to waste”. But it appears that we might just have.