By Karen V. De Asis
SOCIAL MEDIA and Viber groups are awash with business scenarios triggered by paranoia and propagated by opinion makers, futurists, and trend watchers working mostly on historical data surrounding previous pandemics, among them the Spanish flu, cholera, the bubonic plague, etc.
The post-COVID-19 predictions are nearly homogenous, raising a battle cry of a new normal. The new world order is almost purely reliant on the internet of things and artificial intelligence, technology-enabled supply chains and delivery at your doorstep, work from home, online banking, a national identity card, and digital currency.
Deluged by all these, not to mention counsel from celebrated and cult leader-like opinion makers, many businessmen are in a frenzy, seeking stimulus and ready for blood-letting, forgetting that this pandemic, like any other crisis faced by a long time businessman, will pass because there is the Consumer, the ultimate reason why businesses survive or die.
Do not forget, in the Philippines the percentage of private consumption to GDP is 73.8%, way beyond the global average of 63.64%. Filipinos have always been known to be bullish consumer spenders globally.
A study by MKS Marketing Consulting, a brand and media consulting agency, describes the shopping and buying sentiment of Filipinos in a post-ECQ (enhanced community quarantine) scenario. MKS, a long time member of MORES, a premier association of professional market researchers, harvested data from a random-sample survey between April 10 to 30 among 336 respondents belonging to multiple generations and economic classes in the NCR, Central and South Luzon. The data sample has a minimal 5% margin of error and 95% confidence. Following are some of the insights.
Filipino consumers during lockdown have resorted to online streaming and video access, watching the news, doing household chores, praying and attending online mass, as well as watching regular TV or cable.
Topping the Filipino consumers’ activities while locked down are: online TV/streaming and online video access — i.e. Netflix, YouTube, KissAsian, Viu, iflix (78.5%), followed by use of broadcast media to listen and watch the news (73.90%); doing household chores like cleaning and washing dishes (72.70%); praying, meditating, and listening to online mass (67%); and watching regular television or cable (66.7%). Other activities include working from home (59.70%), posting on social media and Viber (59.10%), exercising at home (56.70%), cooking or baking (50%), eating multiple times a day (47.60%), doing out-of-home shopping (45.50%), listening to Spotify (39.70%), and, hanging out with friends online (38.70%). Trailing behind is online shopping and food delivery (35.80%), feeding and taking care of pets (30%), sleeping extensively for more than eight hours (27.30%), online education (23.90%), engaging in casual mobile gaming (20.90%), listening to radio music (19.40%), reading extensively including online press (18.50%), doing gardening (15.5%), doing arts and crafts (14.5%), jogging or walking out of the home (11.80%), engaging in multiplayer online gaming (7.9%),; and nursing a relative at home (2.4%).
Going to church tops the activity most Filipino consumers will engage in once the lockdown is lifted.
Church and faith services (80%), going to work (71.20%), eating at a favorite restaurant (63.60%), going to a hair salon (61.20%), paying bills (58.20%), going to the mall (56.10%), and going to a bank (50%) are among the activities Filipino consumers will actively engage in within the first two weeks from lifting of the ECQ.
Consumers will most likely return to their normal activities one day to two weeks after the ECQ is lifted.
Nearly 30% of Filipino consumers are likely to go back to their normal activities a day after the ECQ is lifted while 28% should resume their activities one week after. Another 18% are taking things more slowly and should resume normal activities two weeks later. Still some are more cautious and will resume normal activities only after three months, as soon as a vaccine has been developed, or when public transport is more regular and normal.
Among the categories likely to be consumed/indulged in within two weeks after the lifting of the lockdown are spas, healthy food, appliances, and eyewear/eye care essentials.
Basic necessities, and personal hygiene and pharmaceutical products remain the top three categories that will be heavily consumed even after the lifting of the ECQ.
However, two weeks after its lifting, spa and massage services come up on top, along with organic and healthy food, fitness supplements, hair care essentials, home appliances, petroleum, travel, eye care essentials, and cosmetics. Automobiles are far down the list of categories to be patronized, along with pest and infection control services, cigarettes, and nutraceuticals.
Products and services that invested in branding in pre-COVID-19 days are actually the same brands that will be remembered during post-quarantine days.
Products and services that made investments in branding through the years will be the most recalled in their categories and likely to be patronized post-ECQ. Among these are Green Cross rubbing alcohol (rubbing alcohol and disinfectant); EO-Executive Optical (optical store); Nescafe and Kopiko (instant coffee); Monterey (fresh meat); Mac and Maybelline (cosmetics); Samsung, LG, Sony, Panasonic, Carrier, Everest (major home appliances); and Skyflakes (biscuit), among others.
Why do brands that were strong pre-COVID-19 come out stronger post-ECQ and are more resilient?
Post-ECQ, consumers will be willing to pay a premium for their top-of-mind brand. Strong brands are stamped with the guarantee of their familiar memorable name, brand equity message, and product quality.
Business owners must not forget that businesses and their products and services exist for consumers. A product or service must have strong brand equity to remain in the memory of consumers post-ECQ.
Ironically, a strong brand must have already been built during the pre-COVID-19 period. In a post-ECQ world, simple name recall or a pure media flooding noisy strategy, or celebrity endorsements may likely not work. Only 10% of potential viewers are expected to be receptive to celebrity endorsement themes post-COVID-19.
Consumers, more than ever, will resort to brands they have tried, have tested, and are engaged in because of economic pressure, tightened money belts, and, for some, a desire to feel like they are in a good mental state after a personal disruption and crisis. When there is a limited source of income and money, consumers are likely to keep money close to their chests and will not experiment on untried and new non-essential products and services. So with wealthier buyers who desire to feel good and may opt to buy higher-priced options across the product range of their favored brand.
E-commerce and the digital economy, powered by logistics and a good supply chain, will become a stronger distribution option in the post-ECQ world as new and existing consumers would have become savvier in its usage during the lockdown. However, consumers will resort to this option for familiar, regularly used brands, and mainly essential and commodity items like fresh meat and produce, commodity pantry supplies, etc. When using a website or social media, there must be familiarity with the brand or, in its absence, good customer reviews.
Post-ECQ, experimenting with new products and services will decrease as money becomes tight, consumers are more cautious, and there remains an air of uncertainty.
Pre-COVID-19 or post-pandemic, the correct way of branding products and services remains an important business strategy and must be sustained.
Pulling in consumers to fuel business and branding, pandemic or not, almost always needs strong leadership, often by the owners themselves, behind brands. These leaders do not cave in when faced with competition, and economic, pandemic and other sorts of threats. They rise above challenges, are quick to make decisions, and recognize opportunities everywhere.
Business owners must realize that the survival of their brand and business is dependent on the Consumer alone.
Karen V. De Asis is the Chief Brand Strategist of MKS Marketing Consulting and is an alumna of Oxford University’s SAID Graduate School of Business Strategic Leadership Executive Education and the Stanford Graduate School of Business Strategic Marketing Executive Education. De Asis is also an alumna of the Ateneo Graduate School of Business and is a Ph.D graduate of the De La Salle Graduate School, Taft Campus. She is also a member of the Global Strategic Consulting Network