Under the continuous impact of the epidemic on the domestic economy, the brand is trying to re-establish the foundation of the market and consumer psychology based on the impact of the current changes in the future, in the face of both the ideal of long-term foundation and the reality of survival. Market, and resonate with the "consumer sentiment spectrum", grasp the three-dimensional force of "visible", "available" and "reliable" brand strategy.

This article is selected from the special topic "Economic Stagflation and Changes in the Recovery Period". Subsequent releases of this series will continue to focus on this topic. Click to go to the special page

Key Insights:

  • Population is the foundation of all economic activities, but since 2020, the inflow of population from big cities from overseas to China has been decreasing, which affects the focus of brand marketing
  • When normal economic activities are suspended and consumers’ psychology is greatly impacted, it is the brand’s “decision moment”. Deep thinking from the feelings and experience of the epidemic will help the brand greatly strengthen or reverse consumer preferences
  • Point-of-sale partners are directly bearing the impact of the epidemic on the economy. If the brand can also bring them tangible help, it will seize the opportunity to build trust with both consumers and partners

The "epidemic" has been hitting society and the economy for three years, and we don't know how long it will last. Demographic trends, social psychology, business activities and other aspects are being strongly and profoundly affected. Uncertain epidemics and uncertain control policies make the "abnormal" may become the "normal". Brand growth and longevity have become the labels of business idealists, and "short-term behavior" seems to be the "best solution" for corporate survival at present... Does the brand's marketing strategy need to be adjusted? How can a brand "survive", "stand up" and "run"?

In the novel "The Moon and Sixpence" written by British novelist William Somerset Maugham, sixpence and the moon symbolize reality and ideals. At present, when the "sixpence" on the ground is getting harder and harder to pick up, do we still have time to look up at the "moon" in the sky?

Image source: unsplash

Marketing base - the way of population flow has been reversed

The world is different. When we observe brand marketing, demographics are fundamental. Population is the basis of all economic activities:

  • Population fertility trend, determines the change of market size
  • The trend of population flow determines the layout and construction of product channels
  • Employment trends of the population determine the ability and willingness to consume

These are the bases for discussing brand marketing, and this base has changed with the epidemic.

According to the research report, the epidemic has continued to affect the global birth rate in the past two years, and the number of births in most countries in the world has declined significantly. Of course, China can’t be alone. According to statistics from the Bureau of Statistics, the five-year compound growth rate of new-born population and birth rate from 2014 to 2019 before the outbreak was -2.8% and -5.5%, showing a gradual downward trend; Both the population and the birth rate have been greatly reduced. According to the data of China's seventh census, the total fertility rate of women of childbearing age in 2020 is 1.3, which is far below the level of generation replacement. From the perspective of provinces, the number of permanent residents born in Hubei, the most severely affected area in 2020, was only 482,000, a year-on-year decrease of 28.1%. Although part of the obvious downward trend is due to statistical caliber errors caused by different sampling methods, the epidemic still has a great impact on people's childbearing arrangements and willingness to bear children. The new crown epidemic has increased the uncertainty faced by people in their lives, increased people's concerns about hospital delivery, and further reduced residents ' willingness to have children1.

Entering 2022, control measures will be tightened again, which will have a major impact on people's psychological and economic conditions. "We are the last generation" has become a hot word. In the future, brands will have to face a market that is gradually losing demographic dividends.

Population mobility has also been disrupted by the epidemic. From a global perspective, the epidemic is prompting people to "flee" the metropolis. For example, Montreal, the second largest city in Canada and the largest city in Quebec, experienced the most serious population loss in the past two decades from July 2019 to July 2020, with an increase of only about 5,000 people in a year (the previous year was 37,000+ people). In a city of this size, people arrive or leave every day, but the "population deficit" between the city and its surrounding areas reached 35,900 last year, the highest since 2001 when the Quebec Institute of Statistics began comparing the populations of different regions 2 . The situation in the United States in 2021 is similar, with metropolises such as San Francisco and New York all reporting fairly significant population outflows. Stephan Whitaker, a policy economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland in the United States, analyzed credit record data and found that before the epidemic, the population moved out more than into the community, and most of them had incomes below the median rather than above the median. number of communities. This situation reversed in 2020, with wealthier neighborhoods losing many residents3 . It is conceivable that the epidemic in China, especially Shanghai, in 2022 will also cause similar changes in the above-mentioned population flow patterns.

Image source: unsplash

Big cities have always been the core and "locomotive" of brand operations. The reduction in population inflows in big cities is bound to have an impact on the focus of brand marketing.

Changes in the population and its activity trends may not directly inform us of the adjustment direction of brand marketing strategies, but it will help marketers understand and establish a basis for market and consumer psychology. The impact of these changes on the living environment of enterprises and brands will be gradually released in the future. Under such circumstances, instead of turning the crystal ball hastily, it is better to deepen thinking from the experience and feelings of the epidemic, extract valuable experience, and "don't waste every crisis."

The "three-dimensional force" that resonates with the "consumer sentiment spectrum"

The epidemic is not only the background of marketing, but even the starting point for determining marketing strategies.

The author personally experienced the closure of the Shanghai epidemic from March to May 2022, which can be said to be an extreme case of the impact of the epidemic on consumption. From the perspective of consumer psychology research, the experience and experiences during this period are precious. When normal economic activities are suspended and consumers' psychology is greatly impacted, this is a "decision moment" for brands.

How a brand behaves in these moments can greatly enhance or reverse consumer perceptions and preferences for a brand.

Therefore, when formulating and implementing brand strategies, grasping the "consumer sentiment spectrum" will become the "winner" of brands in an uncertain era during the epidemic (including the "post-epidemic" period).

Consumer sentiment spectrum refers to the emotional preferences and psychological needs of consumers related to a brand at a specific moment. The mass content that occurs instantly on social media is the basis for mapping the emotional spectrum. Then, brands will have the opportunity to resonate with the current consumer emotional spectrum by combining social listening, interviews and professional intuition. Specifically, in a special market environment, what tests the brand is the following "three-dimensional force".

First dimension force: whether the brand is "visible" (Awareness)

During the epidemic, consumers' media usage habits have changed. In the US and UK, Generation Z (1997-2012), Generation X (1965-1980), and Baby Boomers (1946-1964) spent more time checking social media (increases of 27%, 29%, and 15% respectively). %) 4 .

This change is also very easy to find a reference in China. From December 2019 to February 2020, Weibo experienced a new peak in the number of monthly independent devices, which still reached a growth rate of 3.8% when the large base remained unchanged; 2 After March 6, the anti-epidemic and disaster relief work was carried out in an orderly manner. Weibo became the core platform for the release of the latest policies, relief of pneumonia patients, social material allocation, promotion of public welfare projects, and dispelling rumors of the epidemic. The number of daily independent devices gradually stabilized5 . According to the "2021 Media Trends and Forecasts" released by Kantar, in April 2020 alone, users' Internet usage time increased by 64%, online video increased by 54%, and social media participation increased by 56%.

To let consumers see the brand, it is necessary not only to re-examine the delivery media - social media, authoritative information release media (according to the statistics of the Miaozhen Research Institute, the rate of consumers' contact with TV during the lockdown period in Shanghai has risen sharply, which is higher than the national average. 20% higher), etc., what is more important is to examine and make decisions on the content itself, that is, is the published content resonating at the same frequency as the consumer's emotional spectrum, or is it out of tune?

A very interesting example observed by the author is Jihu Motors. During this year's lockdown period, countless Chinese people participated in two online concerts - Cui Jian's concert broadcast live on April 15, 2022, and Luo Dayou's concert on May 27, 2022. The exclusive sponsor of the two concerts is Jihu Motors. On May 27th, Jihu’s WeChat index reached 4.72 million, a day-to-day increase of 89.39%; on May 24th, when Jihu announced the exclusive sponsorship of Luo Dayou’s first online concert on the video account, its index reached within 30 days of the date The highest peak was 7.22 million; the overall index increased by 1858.85% day-to-day, and the source of video numbers was 4883.17% day-to-day. On April 15th, Cui Jian’s first online concert exclusively titled by Jihu received 63.7 million views, with over 46 million viewers, 120 million applause, and 2.43 million online comments 6 … In terms of improvement, Jihu Automobile has undoubtedly achieved its goal. While entering the consumer's field of vision, it has completed the emotional penetration of consumers.

Image source: Jihu official account

A more interesting example comes from Coca-Cola, which has become a "hard currency" in Shanghai's sealed-off areas. It has not only been hotly discussed on social media, but has also become a phenomenon widely reported by the news media7 . Although it is not intentional by the brand side, in a way, this is the value and meaning of the content.

The second dimension: whether the brand is "Accessibility" (Accessibility)

When it comes to cola becoming a "hard currency", we have to talk about whether the brand's products and services can reach consumers when they need it most. During the lockdown period in Shanghai, the underlying needs of Maslow's theory made Shanghainese people fall into the arms of "Kaituantuan", a community group buying platform under Pinduoduo. According to statistics from ShanghaiWOW, during the lockdown period, 130,000 supply-guaranteed group leaders emerged in Shanghai to buy vegetables, meat, eggs, rice, noodles, grains and oils for community residents; there were also more than 650,000 improvement-type group leaders, who brought a variety of other products to countless residents. supplies. Most of these group leaders chose Kuaituantuan for community group buying. Kuaituantuan was born during the first wave of the new crown epidemic in March 2020. In 2021, the number of daily active users has exceeded 10 million, the GMV (gross merchandise transaction) has exceeded 60 billion yuan, and the revenue of the group leader has exceeded 10 billion yuan8 .

In addition to live e-commerce, it is time for brands to reassess and plan community-centric marketing strategies. Community e-commerce and community offline stores are not only the "last mile" for goods to reach consumers, but also the brand's redesign and arrangement for the community, a "new center" that gradually condenses consumers' life needs and emotional needs.

The third dimension: whether the brand is "reliable" (Accountability)

Under the epidemic, consumers are increasingly concerned about their future and worry about their economic situation. According to Kantar's "2021 Media Trends and Forecasts" survey, 77% of consumers already feel uncertain about their income9 . However , what is more anxious than consumers is the partners of many brand sales terminals. They are the bridge for brands to reach consumers, and they are also directly bearing the economic blow of the epidemic . Whether the brand can realize this, stand with them, go one step further, and bring them real help is an opportunity to build trust, and it is also a criterion for consumers and partners to judge whether the brand is "reliable".

In 2021, the winner of the Grand Prix in the outdoor category of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity is Heineken. In 2020, when many bars were forced to close down due to the epidemic and faced difficulties in survival, as a partner of more than 5,000 bars around the world, Shift some of your investment to outdoor advertising. In Argentina, Germany, Indonesia, Italy and Spain, instead of taking the traditional outdoor advertising route, Heineken pays to write copy on bar facades, windows and shutters, making it a new, more sustainable medium Buy Platform 10 . Both consumers and bar operators have received direct help while feeling the warmth of the brand.

Image source: lbbonline website

There are also examples in China, that is, Shell lubricants also reach tens of thousands of car owners through dealers distributed in capillaries in various places. In fact, as early as 2 years ago, Shell had already started to communicate with dealers and complete sales in the form of live broadcast. From the end of May to the end of July 2022, the brand column "Big Coffee Opens a Small Kitchen" in Shell's live broadcast room conducted four more live broadcasts to discuss the topic of resumption of work and production. The methods taught by the coaches began to be applied in practice.

In the first live broadcast on May 27, Wang Kai, general manager of Shell's channel development department, talked with Liu Run, a famous business consultant, to discuss how to "find certainty in the midst of uncertainty" and help dealers think deeply about their own business. More than 1,300 dealers flocked to watch the live broadcast room, with more than 10,000 likes, and 200+ people participated in the comments (data source: internal data of Shell Live Mini Program); the two live broadcasts on June 8 and 22 invited Liu Wei, the chief designer of Alibaba Cloud's digital organization goal management, explained the way of operation, helped dealers set goals and track the results in real time, creating a hot atmosphere in the live broadcast room; the live broadcast ended on July 21, Zhang Lijun, a well-known organizational innovation expert, came Explain to dealer partners how organizational innovation companies win unconventional battles. In addition to the live broadcast, Shell also launched a special course "Trilogy of Sail in the Epidemic Era" in the micro-classroom, explaining in detail how to carry out digital organization management for dealers. In Shell's weekly update of dealers' anti-epidemic stories, dealers from all over the country came to actively share their actual combat experience. In this way, Shell shows how the brand can be the emotional link and development arm of the distributor.

"Visible", "available", and "reliable" may become the "three-dimensional force" of brand strategy during the epidemic (including "post-epidemic") period. For consumers, an ambitious brand should become a bit of certainty in this uncertain world, a bit of warmth when they are emotionally fragile, and a constant persistence in the fragmented social public opinion field. No matter as a practitioner in the brand marketing industry or as a consumer, I sincerely hope that brands will be like the protagonist in the novel "The Moon and Sixpence"—"Sixpence is everywhere, but he looked up and saw the moon."

  1. "The past two years of the epidemic: three major changes from the perspective of population-birth, mobility and employment", Southwest Securities, January 26, 2022
  2. RCI Canada International Radio website: https://www.rcinet.ca/zh/2021/02/09/%E4%BA%8C%E5%8D%81%E5%B9%B4%E6%9D%A5%E6 %9C%80%E4%B8%A5%E9%87%8D%EF%BC%9A%E6%96%B0%E5%86%A0%E7%96%AB%E6%83%85%E5%8A %A0%E5%89%A7%E8%92%99%E7%89%B9%E5%88%A9%E5%B0%94%E7%AD%89%E5%A4%A7%E5%9F%8E %E5%B8%82/
  3. Yicai website: https://www.yicai.com/news/101048360.html
  4. "Coronavirus: How Are Consumers Actually Reaction", GWI, March 2020
  5. iResearch: https://report.iresearch.cn/report/202006/3590.shtml
  6. Financial website: https://m.jrj.com.cn/madapter/stock/2022/05/28211136686938.shtml
  7. Xinhuanet: http://www.news.cn/politics/2022-04/16/c_1128566026.htm
  8. Fat Whale Toutiao public account: https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/YbPd7dlyHnqnn1XlRy3pqg
  9. Kantar official account: https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/V9jJxS8S5zCfxwd06rzlKQ
  10. Zhihu website: https://zhuanlan.zhihu.com/p/524885126