OYO's marketing officer Mayur Hola shares how the company has changed its marketing strategy during the second wave of ...
- In our latest interview series, we speak to a few CMOs to understand how they are helping out their organisations find the right ways to connect with consumers.
- Mayur Hola, Head of Global Brand, OYO tells us how the brand has been using its marketing tools to help out people.
Understanding the gravity of the situation, India’s hotel unicorn OYO has extended its support to help out its employees and customers. OYO’s employees who have lost their lives due to COVID-19, will be given 8 months payment and the company will support the education of their children for five years. It has also moved to a 4-day working week for the month of May.
“2021 is grim. What's going on is just a whole other challenge to deal with. Almost every single person of our team is impacted either personally or with someone amongst their family or friends getting infected,” said Mayur Hola, Head of Global Brand, OYO. “There's organisation-wide tracking and a Covid war room setup to help people with whatever they need; Oxygen cylinders, OCs, hospitalisation, meals, medicines etc. What we've done in addition to that is set up a team level tracker to check on folks every day. It's just a more personal way to do this we find. And if anyone or their family is impacted then it's just normal for us to check on them daily and see if they need anything. Both as someone who works with a team and as just a human being, you have to make time to check on people today. It's not a formality, it is a necessity.”
In the interim, OYO has also shifted its marketing strategy and has recast its business model. It has turned a few of its properties to function as quarantine and isolation facilities for COVID-19 positive patients.
On how the second wave has impacted OYO’s larger business goals, Hola said, “Ritesh gave us a very simple goal for the next little bit. We will help whoever we can and prevent as many lives from being lost as possible for us to do. I think it's a great goal to focus the organisation towards. And we've got hundreds of people coming together to do exactly that.”
The company had conducted a guest survey to identify upcoming industry trends. As per the survey, 87% of the OYO customers said that they will prefer hotels with immunised staff when they plan to travel again. “Vaccination visibility when self-reported timely and accurately will become a confidence builder for travel recovery,” tweeted Founder and Group CEO Ritesh Agarwal.
So, during the second wave, OYO’s two major focus areas have become: OYO care and VaccinAid; the latter is a feature on its app that shows self-reported vaccination status of hotel staff across the country.
Telling us more about OYO’s focus areas for this quarter, Hola said, “It really helps when you've got a direction as clear as we have to help people in general and OYOpreneurs and their families in particular. Today, the brand we all are focusing on is OYO Care. Our quarantine and isolation stays project is a big focus area for us. Both on the retail and corporate (b2b) side. And the VaccinAid feature that transparently declares properties which have vaccinated staff and encourages our guests to vaccinate themselves is another focus area for the mid to long term. It is not business as usual, but it is perhaps more rewarding than usual to be able to help even one person today.”
During the nation-wide lockdown 1.0, the grinding halt on travel and tourism also impacted home-grown hospitality brand OYO by bringing its revenue down to zero levels. However, with cities unlocking and global restrictions easing gradually in the second half of the year, OYO reached ~45% of pre-COVID occupancy levels in December.
As many other CMOs, 2020’s uncertain time taught Hola how to draw boundaries between work life and personal life. He told us that 2021 has been a little easier in terms of adjusting to the sudden waves of changes as felt more prepared for the uncertain challenges that come in his way.
“The first wave was like learning to surf. We fell off the surfboard a lot. It was a lot of getting used to. But now working from home is something you've learnt to deal with and you just get on with it. Schedule wise, I find that it's more sorted. Work days are intense as usual but everyone has fallen into a pattern and there's a lot more respect for post work hours and weekends. More than anything, 2020 taught us what to expect and as such we're a lot more prepared (work wise) to deal with the second wave,” said Hola.
On social media front, OYO has been focusing on connecting with COVID survivors and reminding people to get vaccinated. Business-oriented communication has taken a backseat for now.
Its print ad won hearts on the internet for using the advertising space wisely. It published a ‘handy Spo2 chart’ on the first page of Hindustan Times for people who are tracking their loved ones oxygen levels on a daily basis.
The copy read, “We can keep saying that we care but unless it helps you, it’s a waste. So we decided to give you our ad space to take care of yourself and your loved ones.”
This advertisement by OYO Care today is marketing at it’s brilliant best!Well done @oyorooms https://t.co/EGWoowmJbB— Rohan Kochhar (@RohanKochhar) 1621589586000
This print ad is a great example of how brands can use advertising, which is the biggest and strongest weapon they hold, to provide value to its audience and bring about change.
“Right now, our only focus is to help and we're using whatever tools and channels we have to do so,” said Hola.
Many marketers have chosen silence to help their audience deal with the horrifying situation that our country is facing or they have chosen to continue selling products as usual. There are a few handful brands that have taken a kind, empathetic approach in their advertising campaigns.
On what should brands do in today’s scenario, Hola said, “If you can help, please help. Even if you're selling goods or services that are helpful, that's fine. But whatever you do, don't moment market this crisis. There's a special place in communication and marketing hell reserved for that.”