Is this crisis been wasted by your brand?


Winston Churchill uttered these words sometime in the mid-1940s, as the end of World War II approached. “Never let a successful crisis go to waste”. It was concerning the Yalta Conference and the alliance formed between himself and Stalin and Roosevelt, which ultimately led to the creation of the United Nations.

RIL chairman Mukesh Ambani recently echoed the sentiment, saying that “a crisis is too precious to be wasted”, in a conversation with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg last month. By the way, RIL cleared its $21 billion debt in the middle of the pandemic, and also became the first Indian company to exceed US$150 billion in market capitalization.

The launch of Revlon in the Depression-era in 1932, and the $8 billion sales milestone of Estee Lauder during the Great Recession of 2008 are perhaps testimony to the ‘Lipstick Effect’. It is a term coined by Leonard Lauder of Estée Lauder that once suggested that cosmetics sales tend to be inversely correlated to economic health during troubled times, as customers seek ways to mingle with themselves.

 Each recession is characterized by features relative to that era, about how brands have been impacted, and how both customers and brands have responded to adverse situations. For each entity, the 2020 pandemic has been an intense period of introspection. And the desire to connect deeply with customers has been intense.

The United Emotions-The Great Chance

In reality, one of the buzziest new campaigns of 2020 was CRED, a two-year-old Fintech start-up that doubled its customer base to about 5.9 million in 2020. Experts agree that the brand’s humour-tinged films, which used 90’s actors in an endearing self-deprecation mode, set the brand apart from standard messaging based on pandemics.

‘Don’t go down from the air’

‘This is simply the worst time to go off the air’, according to Soumya Mohanty – Chief Client Officer- South Asia, Insights Division at Kantar. BrandZ India shows that more than 20 points of salience have also been acquired by brands that have risen in shareholder value from ’19 to ’20 in India. Consumers return to the market and when they do, they gravitate towards products that in these times have remained popular. They will come back with “lists” and spend less time searching and buying them. Mental accessibility would be critical to the unlocking of shares, she adds.

Returning to the core

All teams are engaged in seizing the market when times are good. There is no time to discuss reinvention, process streamlining and weeding out broken models, poor processes, and bad ideas. But Covid has certainly re-focused every brand on ‘who they really are, or want to be’.

‘How you make customers feel, will be remembered’

Many businesses funded by Sequoia have focused on their passion. For students who suddenly found themselves out of school and with no support, BYJUs made their app free. Partner kitchen capacity was channeled by Zomato and Rebel Foods to make food available for the marginalized. Log9, whose founders are creating social impact on scale, used their product innovation expertise to create ‘Corona Oven’ to tackle near-term opportunities in the fight against Covid worldwide.

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