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What Can Brands in South Africa Expect Post Covid-19?


M&C Saatchi South Africa’s founder, head of strategy for black & white and head of strategy for creative companies share their views with LBB’s Natasha Patel on returning to normal post Covid-19

What Can Brands in South Africa Expect Post Covid-19?

Is Covid-19 sponsored by banana bread? Is the question on the lips of head of strategy Robert Grace and head of strategy for black & white Diana Springer as they discuss what they believe is the new normal in a world that has survived through the destruction caused by Coronavirus – and all of the many cooking-related hobbies that come with being forced to stay indoors with copious amounts of time on our hands.


The duo offer up their top tips for brands on how to come out of this pandemic stronger than ever. And giving LBB’s Natasha Patel an insight, Jacques Burger, founder partner at the company, explains how the country is coping with the lockdown and how the path forward will be carved.


To understand why people have reacted in the way they have to this virus, Robert looked at trends comparing Coronavirus to Swine Flu, Ebola and the Zika virus. Interestingly, humans are creatures of habit so in terms of social media and consumer responses our habits haven’t changed over the course of each of the epidemics. But brands have. And to highlight the way they can react Diana puts consumers in categories of survivors, middle and top.


She explains that by looking at the market like this, the experiences of lockdown are going to be very different in different parts of the market with survivors having less access to media, middle-income families facing a loss of income and those at the top facing a ‘lifestyle lockdown’ with holidays cancelled and pension and investment concerns.


However, Jacques tells us that whilst the country has been praised internationally for its swift and decisive action when the outbreak began, the effect on the economy have been ‘incredibly tough’, she adds: “Pausing the economy for a month has shown us just how fragile our economy is and how tough many South Africans have it just to try and survive on a daily basis. This has been an incredibly challenging time with massive loss of income, many small businesses closing down and some more headwinds too on their way I suspect”.


So what are consumers after at a time like this? Simon highlights that the first thing they’re after is ‘release’. The African Business Review highlights the release phenomenon as: “A situation that occurs when a boundary or restriction has been removed, resulting in exuberance and an urgent need to experience and own all the good things in life”. Simon adds that for brands to meet this immediate need for release they need to look at previous pandemics with the mindset that once the threat lifts, luxury consumers will come back stronger.


To get an understanding of this, the team have looked at McKinsey’s research on China that shows that Chinese consumers are slowly regaining their confidence –with a majority adjusting to higher levels of spending in some categories. Some may go as far as ‘revenge spending’ where they visit their favourite luxury shops to celebrate their new freedom. To ensure a brand is ready for this need for release and is able to meet the immediate need for release Simon insists that there is a very limited time frame so brands should act quickly.


Jacques explains this ‘release’ stage as a chance for consumers to indulge in everything they’ve been missing such as shopping, alcohol and seeing friends. But there will also be some changes too, such as the new appreciation for space and freedom of movement. She adds: “I believe that this reset will lead to a reframing of how we live – more connected to each other as a society, a new appreciation for health and time and a focus on less is more with the focus on quality – be it a product, service or experience.”


The next consumer response is known as ‘reset’ - coming back to life but with new habits. Kantar South Africa’s CEO Ivan Moroko perceived this as: “Once this crisis is over some of the new habits will endure and brands will need to be ready for new omni-channel behaviours.” Diana refers to the way that Covid-19 has driven consumers’ engagement with technology and that, despite digital technology being around for over a decade, it took a global pandemic to transform the economy. She refers to the new habits and routines South African consumers have developed during lockdown with online fitness, digital shopping and video calling being at the forefront.


The team at M&C Saatchi believes these shifts will have an impact on the ways consumers are looking for things, which are convenient, curated and give a sense of community. Diana urges brands to ensure they are able to live up to these new expectations as the world slowly starts to emerge out of lockdown.


One of the ways that there’s been a shift is in ecommerce. Globally the pandemic has changed the way shopping is done with convenience and safety being at the forefront of people’s minds. Jacques believes this change has happened so rapidly that these behaviour changes will become a part of daily habits, “Overnight we have seen digital immigrants become digital natives and as people become accustomed to digital platforms, without having any alternatives to explore it has forced a much quicker and deeper understanding of digital platforms and a result the benefits are docking in a more compelling way. Brands and businesses that are able to understand and deliver to this new world, I believe will be the future-fit ones.”


The third and final consumer response is a ‘reframe’ or a renewal and reconsideration of choices and behaviours. Throughout history, pandemics have forced humans to imagine a world that is, “a portal, a gateway between one world and the next”, as author Arundhati Roy puts it. In line with this there have been trends of economic downturn in the world as being a period of revival, which will have a heightened empathy for music, arts and culture.


As humans we are now more aware of our time and place in the world with a sense of community helping us through a period of limited social interactions. Diana explains that for brands to create meaning for consumers in a time of reprioritising they must stay relevant by having a clear purpose, creating enriching experiences and providing a tangible value.


The pair then urge brands to think about what role they can play in the post-pandemic world. Robert reminds brands to remember that following the financial crash of 2008, their recovery was nine times faster than at any point in time beforehand. What brands decide now will have lasting effects, people will remember what brands have done for them now more than ever before.
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M&C Saatchi Abel, Wed, 29 Apr 2020 16:01:53 GMT