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Sunday, September 19, 2021

Designing in Distress





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The Coronavirus has changed the way our world revolved and the way our business rotated. Suddenly, all business plans that we had meticulously designed have become faintly gleaming stars. It is as if our Sun has lost half of its brightness. So when the picture is so grim, when businesses are trying to stay afloat in the rough water, would it be a crime to talk about design?

Breathe in. All is not lost.
One thing that I have learned from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is DON’T PANIC. Adam Douglas writes – Embrace this simple message while humming along to the Bob Marley song of the same theme and you won’t have another stressful day in your life. Now, this may sound frivolous to your mind that’s preoccupied in finding ways of saving your dreams from getting sucked in into a black hole. But not all is lost. There is a way out.

Redefine.
That is it. The solution is just one word. Because this is the time to redefine ‘Normal.’ We hear everyone saying and writing one sentence – Post-COVID world is going to be different. But no one tells ‘how different it is going to be’. The reason being this is the time to look beyond and redefine our own world. This is the time to realign our compass. This is the time to take a look within and review the way we interpreted things. For instance, the word Design.

Design is not just a logo or a brochure. It is not just an art of using flashy colors and suave fonts. The design that we are talking over here is Communication Design. How should your brand speak to your customers? What should your new media plan be? We are talking about that design. (Logos, brochures, colors and fonts are an integral part of your Communication Design – let’s not forget that.) Be it your marketing plan, your HR strategy or then your CSR initiatives, they are all a design. They are a result of art and science merging in perfect harmony. But all these designs are now useless if your Communication is not designed to respond to the changing world. It’s time to relook at your brand personality, groom it to meet your customer’s changing expectations and realign itself to every consumer’s temperament.

Some big brands have set the ball rolling. Coca-Cola rolled out its social-distancing themed billboard on Times Square.

 

Picture Credit: The Coca-Cola Company

Many brands followed with their renditions and earned Likes. Some were too ‘gimmicky’ to be worth remembering.

Picture Credit: CNN Business
Sportswear brands like Adidas launched #hometeam, space where they hosted virtual events to keep their customers and aspirants creative, fit & having fun. While on the other hand, Burger King taught the world how to make a quarantine burger.

Photo Credit: Burger King

These are subversive ideas that have been devised and debuted at top speed during the current black swan global crisis. The ideas worked because the brands knew what the community needed and delivered. They redesigned their communication quickly to show their solidarity with their loyal customers.

A Good Punch Doesn’t Mean A Painful Pinch
Firstly, redesigning a communication strategy is not an expense. It is an investment. Secondly, a good communication design need not necessarily translate into a figure that brings worry lines on your forehead. In reality, it is quite the opposite. Good communication design is something that makes you, your brand and your customers smile. You, because it fits the bill. Your brand, because it gets a comforting personality. And your customers, because they feel that ‘my-kinda-brand’ is talking to them. A good design doesn’t mean an expensive execution. It means practicality. How much does creating an emailer cost? Practically nothing. What is its impact? Priceless. What I mean is, you need not produce an elaborate ad film to reconnect with your customers. A well-crafted Whatsapp forward can help your brand get closer to the customers without burning a hole in your pocket. So now in these changing times, a good communication design is the one that makes your brand look assuring and caring and not just a profit-making machine.

So what is Good Communication Design in today’s uncertain times?
A Good communication design is the one that helps to rebuild consumer confidence. This calls for a thorough analysis of your brand DNA and recalibrating your brand persona. This is an expert’s job. So don’t let anyone take you for a ride.

For instance, these days Social Marketing Experts are dime a dozen. So don’t fall into the we-will-boost-your-post trap. This is not the time to boost one post, but give your brand image a boost; by thinking strategically. What is the campaign thought? How does your online campaign stay true to your brand DNA? How would you tweak and adapt your marketing plan to help your brand reach its customers online? These are crucial questions a Social Marketing Expert needs to address.

COVID-19 is changing consumer behavior – and hence your advertising
There is a reason why I took Social Media Marketing as a point of discussion. During the lockdown, there has been a monumental change in consumer’s media consumption. Print advertising has fallen. Out-of-home and cinema advertising have shrunk. In-home media usage has shot up drastically. TV viewership has climbed, but digital consumption has increased manifold. The data from the department of telecommunications shows that between March 22 and March 28, 2020, Indians consumed an average of 307,963 TB or 307 petabytes (PB) of data.

The annual report – Mobile Broadband India Traffic Index, (Mbit) 2021 – found that India ranked second in the world in terms of broadband usage on mobile phones after Finland, and the data traffic in the country has increased around 60 times over the last five years, which is also highest globally.

This proves that digital media is a communication channel that we as advertisers and media planners need to take seriously. It is no more ‘below the line’. In fact, in today’s volatile world, there is no line. Remember, it can become the primary medium for your brand to communicate with your ‘locked-down’ customers. This means your communication design should either adapt or reinvent itself to help your brand thrive in this online environment.

Data consumption is just one part of the story. Consumer spending is the other. During the lockdown period, market observers inferred a spike in essentials, health & hygiene products. Discretionary spending is falling. Planned purchases are being put on hold. Saving cash has become a priority. As consumers avoid stepping outside, online shopping for groceries and medicines has seen tremendous growth. This shift can be termed as a change from Retailing to E-tailing.

This applies to services as well. Not as a template, but as a new way of thinking. For instance, I handle Vatsalya Trust’s communication. It is a Mumbai-based NGO established to care, protect and empower destitute and deprived members of the society with special emphasis on orphan/ destitute children and marginalized unskilled youth. They are facing the same problem that every other NGO is facing. Many corporations have donated massively to the PMCare Fund under CSR and have exhausted their yearly budget. The Trustees of Vatsalya Trust, who have always been conservative, are confident that they will survive on accumulated funds in the year 2020. But they need to start reaching out to prospective sponsors and patrons for making future provisions. This NGO was never into publicity or talking about their achievements. But in the changing times, they have to be online and talk more often to the world. Hence, we designed a campaign #HOPE.

 

The campaign adopts a very handmade design, grammar and a warm tone of voice to communicate. We have designed a perfect media mix of Facebook and Linkedin to help Vatsalya Trust reach the desired audience.

So is your communication design future ready?
Sam Dumitriu, the author of a new report released by The Entrepreneurs Network and Xero, says: “Recent events have highlighted the importance of digital technology in enabling businesses to continue trading in the most difficult of circumstances. It is now time to take advantage of a massive opportunity to boost productivity by increasing the rate of digital adoption.”

All this brings us back to the basic question. Are you ready? Is your brand strategy flexible enough to help it survive in today’s era of social distancing and lockdown? Is your communication designed to help your brand survive in today’s difficult times?

Remember the words of Albert Einstein – In the middle of the difficulty lies an opportunity.

Right now is the time to create unique linkages to stay at the top of your customer’s consideration set. And only an efficient communication design that pushes the limits can help you do that.

The authorities are doing everything possible to curtail the spread. However, we have to see how we can turn the tide and transform and revolutionize your sector.

So speak to your customers. Delight them with your communication design.

Author: Prasad Deshpande
Prasad is an advertising professional with 15 years of experience. He is the founder of Design and Film production house Owlways and co-founder of GoaBylane. With his expertise he helps brands to turn-around and helps them to stay relevant and grow.

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