Marketing in the times of Covid-19: ASICS
Rajat Khurana, Managing Director, ASICS India and South AsiaASICS
How brands are navigating the new normal

Marketing in the times of Covid-19: ASICS

How brands are navigating the new normal
  • In our latest interview series, we talk to brands to understand how they are coping with the new normal and their strategies towards navigating these difficult times.
  • Since retail has been impacted massively, we talk to Rajat Khurana, Managing Director, ASICS India and South Asia about the future of retail in a post-Covid world

The Coronavirus lockdown has had a huge impact on the economy. One sector that has been majorly impacted is retail. With malls and shops closed for more than a month across the country, a recent survey by the retail industry body, Retailers Association of India (RAI) suggested that it may take at least 9-12 months for our country’s retail industry to recover from the impact of pandemic and the lockdown.

Currently, a bare minimum of the industry that sells essential goods has been functional. This segment accounts for about 7-8% of the overall industry. The same survey also showed that close to 20-25% of the industry might need capital infusion to stay afloat. This will also impact jobs in the sector.

In such a scenario, how are retail brands coping with the situation? Even though Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his latest speech said that Lockdown 4.0 will be different than the previous lockdowns with many more relaxations, will people be comfortable going to malls and showrooms or will they rely more on online shopping?

In a recent conversation with Rajat Khurana, Managing Director, ASICS India and South Asia, we tried to find answers to a few of these questions. Khurana also spoke to us about what the future of retail in a post-Covid world might look like.

Edited excerpts:

Q) Considering all retail outlets are shut and e-commerce is only delivering essentials, how challenging have the last few weeks been for you as a brand?

It's indeed a tough time for everyone and even more so for retail businesses. But in such times, we have to show courage and character and that is what ASICS symbolizes. We believe that better days are ahead and we are planning for the world post this lockdown is over and virus free.

Q) What has your marketing strategy been during the lockdown weeks? Have you changed your media mix, investing more on platforms like Digital since a few other mediums like OOH/Print have been suffering due to the lockdown?

Yes, definitely there is a major shift in our marketing strategy. There is a stark increase in the consumption of OTT media and media on the digital platform. We are constantly evaluating and deliberating on the marketing strategy for the rest of the year. For now, we think it's best to be cognizant of the situation and not advertise during such tumultuous times.

Q) How have you been ensuring you stay connected with your target audience?

We have taken various initiatives to make sure that we remain relevant to the target audience during such difficult times. We have come up with various campaigns such as '#StaySafeStayStrong' that talks about how important it is to remain both physically and mentally sound during the lockdown. We recently started a '#MyComebackStory' campaign focusing on inspiring and motivating people to always remember that better days are ahead of us and that we all have, in the past and will continue in the future to, come out stronger from difficult situations. Apart from that, our coaches and influencers are conducting physical training sessions and informative sessions for people to follow during the lockdown.

Q) What have your key learnings from this experience been so far?

The current experience has only endorsed my belief that innovation is the key for any business. The companies which will come out of this situation the fastest will be those who have innovative and technologically-advanced products. Apart from that, the people who implement the changes in the working conditions and adapt to it the fastest will continue to propel.

Q) Do you foresee a sea change in retail in the post Covid world? Are you as a brand, ready to adapt to that change?

There may be huge changes in the way we shop, with more focus on online shopping, home deliveries, contactless billing. To get consumers back to shopping malls more than financial incentives, the safety measures will have to be top notch to reassure people of their safety and that may take some time. Hence, in initial months after the lockdown, we may see promotional offers by the brands as they will try to make up for the lost sales. But the situation is likely to be better for e-commerce players. So, as a brand, it is important to leverage the digital commerce and Omni channel concept to remain in touch with consumers and be ready to adapt to the changing landscape.

Q) Marketing during adverse times could often be misinterpreted as opportunistic. How have you made sure that your marketing communications have stayed relevant and not come across as insensitive?

There is always a good time to market your products or brand but this is certainly not that time. We have to be sensitive towards the situation and that is why we as a brand took a call to not advertise our products or campaigns. The main aim of all our campaigns or communications has been to stay relevant to the audience, to motivate and empower them to help others during such times. ASICS is the acronym for Anima Sana in Corpore Sano, which means a Sound Mind in a Sound Body and hence we look to keep this communication going through all our communications. During such times, we would like to be present for our patrons and not be assertive.