How branded content evolved during the pandemic

Shivani Kamdar, Head of Content, SoCheers, writes that empathy, brand love and community building are three themes around which brands have been building their content to keep the engagement game on during these unprecedented times

Shivani Kamdar
They make you fall,
They break you,

But then,
They make you rise,
They heal you,
They make you overcome”

The onset of the pandemic impacted us in more ways than one. It resulted in many businesses and service industries around the world coming to a standstill. The socio-economic crisis made companies re-evaluate their marketing strategies and more importantly, their communication with their target audience/consumers. Nationwide lockdowns in multiple states led to wholescale changes in traditional marketing methods as well.

The restrictions imposed by social distancing led to a seismic shift in consumer behaviour and content consumption patterns. With people grounded at their homes, internet usage shot up to 70%, and streaming services also saw a 12% upward jump [Source: Forbes]. The underlying implication — content or content marketing started to play a central role to connect with the audience. For brands to thrive in this rapidly changing era, the only way was to evolve and adapt their communication strategies on the go.
In the following three points, I will succinctly explain three interconnected communication strategies used during the pandemic by some brands. I’m adding examples to further elucidate the strategies.

Here we go:
1. Building resonance

Brands started engaging with their customers at an emotional level. They resonated with the consumer’s end needs. Once a brand starts connecting with its audience over and above its product utility, it parallelly starts building a deeper relationship with them, something which is of paramount importance. During the pandemic, brands are no longer just a medium to merely purchase/hire products/services, but they have taken an added responsibility to serve the public in this chaotic situation. Hence, their communication also needs to be consistent with their actions.

Case in point: Zomato
The restaurant and food delivery app has been doing a beautiful job in resonating with its audience and that too in a timely manner. When all restaurants and delivery services were shut last year, Zomato posted a tongue-in-cheek tweet that hinted at eating home-cooked food and our Twitterati spotted a trend that must have brought a smile to their faces.

2. Building brand love (affinity)
The latest addition in every advertiser’s dictionary is ‘Brand love’. Brands started using the language of love to communicate with their audience. They are using certain words and phrases — ‘one day at a time,’ ‘in this together,’ — to reassure and empathise with people during a time of utter uncertainty, negativity and vulnerability. Such communications have only helped them build a stronger affinity with their target group.
Case in point: Lego

A common sentiment during the pandemic was — throwbacks, throwbacks to the ol’ good days. Lego supported this public sentiment of reminiscence through its campaign ‘Let’s build together. The campaign helped families and fans come together to relive happy moments and positive experiences so we can escape the dire situations even for a moment if possible. The key takeaway from this brilliant campaign is that we should never undermine the power of nostalgia. People tend to remember the times when they felt positive. If you can connect your brand to those specific moments then it can maximise the affinity and build an honest and wholehearted relationship with the audience.

3. Building a community
Considering the mammoth toll the pandemic has and had on everyone, brands started reaching out to the audience who belonged outside the spectrum of their target audience. Their communication was centred around the feeling of togetherness. They started initiating conversations that were driven by positive sentiment, thus helping them build a bigger community, which not only consisted of their own loyal audience but also built bridges of inclusivity during a time when it’s essential to feel a sense of belongingness.
Case in point: Nike
The master of emotional branding came up with a clever campaign that focused on the new normal — ‘Play for the world’. They encouraged people to ‘play inside’, reinforcing the need for social distancing during the pandemic. Later, they also released an ad, “You can’t stop us,” that reinforced Nike’s core purpose of inspiring consumers even in the midst of such an unusual and difficult circumstance. Apart from that, the brand’s long-term commitment towards helping local communities, sports enthusiasts, and its people came to the forefront with the various initiatives they undertook

The second wave has hit harder and is challenging the advertising industry in ways we hadn’t predicted. Understanding the severity of the situation some brands, content creators and influencers have dialled down their content publication, while some have put a hold on publishing any content whatsoever. There are many who have also come forward to use their social media platforms and reach to amplify requests for oxygen, hospital beds, and Remdisivir.
In the end, it is of prime importance that we maintain our sense of community, empathy, and humanity through our communication. We are invisible to each other at the moment and hence words gain even greater significance. Let’s use them responsibly and for a positive impact.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of and we do not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)