Brands are forgetting competition and patting rival businesses on their back, here is why
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Brands like Dunzo, Swiggy, Dettol and Lifebuoy have shown in the recent past how difficult times are about putting comp...

Brands are forgetting competition and patting rival businesses on their back, here is why

Brands like Dunzo, Swiggy, Dettol and Lifebuoy have shown in the recent past how difficult times are about putting comp...
  • Last week, Zee Entertainment Enterprises mentioned FMCG brands like Pepsi, Maggi, ITC Dark Fantasy, Cadbury Dairy Milk, Red Label Tea and Amul Lassi in its OOH campaign and a week before that, Lay’s also thanked other brands for their services.
  • But it wasn’t just brands from unrelated categories uplifting each other. Brands like Dunzo, Swiggy, Dettol and Lifebuoy have also shown in the recent past how difficult times are about putting competition to rest and working together towards a common goal.
  • We reached out to experts to understand how well it bodes for brands to opt for this empathetic strategy. They opined that consumers respect brands that care about things other than business and work together for a single, larger cause.
For years, rival brands have engaged in ad wars that called each other out on social media or pulled each other down publicly to achieve one-upmanship.

However, we are in the midst of a global pandemic and many SMBs and even well-established brands are struggling to survive in this highly volatile environment. Therefore, it is time for big brands to pause, reflect, rework their strategies and most importantly, keep aside competition to prioritise consumer interest.

A few brands like Dunzo, Swiggy, Dettol and Lifebuoy that provide essential services swallowed their pride and decided to uplift each other in their brand campaigns. By acknowledging their competitors, these brands reminded their consumers that we are all in this together.

With its wit that it is known for, Dunzo had posted a creative on social media saluting those who chose to do the ‘ride’ thing and thanked Swiggy, Grofers and BigBasket.

After Dunzo’s post, Swiggy launched a video campaign called ‘Sukhriya Kare’ with leading social media influencers to thank heroes who wear a helmet and drive around on their scooters to deliver essential products -- risking their lives. It also mentions rival delivery partners Dunzo, Medlife and Grofers.

In yet another heartwarming gesture, bathing soap giant Lifebuoy released a public service print ad that urged the audience to buy a soap they have access to -- be it Lux, Dettol, Santoor or Godrej No 1.

But does this really work?

Unusual times call for unique solutions. Lloyd Mathias, Business Strategist and Angel Investor said it is a great idea to keep aside competition and collaborate, especially during times of crisis.

Mathias said, “The Covid pandemic is a moment of great human suffering as brands coming together – even with competitors – speaks well about our larger need to fight this together. Very early on during this pandemic, Apple and Google came together to partner on COVID-19 contact tracing technology. A positive step by two tech giants signalling the seriousness of the challenge and the need to bring all hands on deck.”

Highlighting how this strategy can help brands gain consumer affinity, Mathias added, “At times of any major disruption or calamity, brand wars must take a back seat and rise to the occasion keeping consumer interest in mind. Consumers will see this as a positive and mature sign, recognizing that brands can put behind their differences when it comes to larger concerns of humanity.”

In the age of social media, anything that is a little different from regular communications generates a lot of chatter. And emotions go a long way. Lay’s had also launched a digital campaign to express gratitude towards the unsung heroes of India who have brought joy to millions even in these challenging times like Dunzo, Zomato, Flipkart, Whisper, to name a few.

One might argue this strategy looks opportunistic but Nidhi Sinha, Head of Content, Mintel India told us that brands who care about things other than their business are not only bought more often but gain their consumer’s respect.

Sinha said, “In times of the pandemic, Indian consumers have reflected a strong sense of affinity with the environment and local communities. As brands come together for a single cause, it certainly puts them in a good light as consumers respect the fact that these brands 'care' and are not just focused on their own business. According to a Mintel research conducted in February 2020, prior to COVID-19, 26% of Indians said that they expect brands to support environmental issues. As the country fights the crisis together, these initiatives not only show gratitude but also reflect a sentiment of care and selflessness, much needed in these times of need.”

Telling us why inclusive ads would work more than competitive ads in today’s environment, N Chandramouli, CEO, TRA Research said, “Empathetic advertising instead of adversarial advertising is what people appreciate, especially in stressed situations like extended WFH, threat of Covid etc. Consumers do not want to be pushed to take sides in such a situation, and they want unadulterated information. Not only are such ads like a breath of fresh air, but they are also non-intrusive and gentle. Which is why they work well.”

However, Chandramouli also said that brands will be brands and even in these instances, they subtly show how they have an upper hand over other players.

He said, “The competitive spirit of brands comes when you are fighting for survival, market share and mindshare. In some categories, if the category is the beneficiary of this crisis, they may keep the combatant side silent, but soon after the dust of the crisis settles, the pugilist in them will be out with gloves again. Even in these empathetic ads for instance, brands will be brands and they tend to subtly show their advantages against competition. After all, brands exist in a competitive world, and they do not exist to do philanthropy.”

Not just in communications, crisis calls for long-term relationships

Mathias said brands need to lend each other their expertise and fight the bigger battle together.

“The lockdown severely impacted most businesses and in these times collaboration worked as an effective risk mitigation strategy to minimize revenue loss by ensuring supply and fair distribution. Brands may need to collaborate with their competitors in areas that they would normally compete for e.g. combining deliveries and sharing of logistics and manufacturing. Some may even consider doing joint messaging,” said he.