Post-ECQ consumer sentiment says with or without COVID, strong brands will survive

Social media and viber groups are awash with business scenarios triggered by paranoia and propagated by opinion makers, futurists, and trend watchers working mostly on historical data surrounding previous pandemics, among them are the Spanish flu, the cholera, the bubonic plague, etc.

The post-COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) predictions are nearly homogenous, rallying a battle cry of a new normal. The new world order is almost purely reliant on the Internet of things and artificial intelligence; technology enabled supply chains and delivery at your doorstep; work from home; online banking; a national identity card; and digital currency.

Deluged by all these, not to mention, counsel from celebrated and cult-like opinion makers, many businessmen are in frenzied behavior seeking stimulus and ready for blood-letting, forgetting that this pandemic – like any other crisis faced by a long-time businessman – will come to pass because there is the consumer, the ultimate reason why businesses survive or die.

Not to forget, the Philippines’ percentage of private consumption to GDP (gross domestic product) is 73.8%, way beyond the global average of 63.64%. Filipinos have always been known to be bullish consumer spenders globally.

A study mounted by MKS Marketing Consulting, a brand and media consulting agency, describes the shopping and buying sentiment of Filipinos in a post-ECQ (enhanced community quarantine) scenario. MKS, a long-time member of MORES, a premier association of professional market researchers, harvested data from a random sampled survey between April 10 to 30 among 336 respondents belonging to multiple-generations and eco-class in NCR, Central and South Luzon. The data sample has a minimal five percent margin of error and 95 percent confidence. The following are some of the insights gathered:

Filipino consumers during lockdown resort to online streaming and video access, watching news, doing household chores, praying and online mass as well as watching regular TV or cable.

Topping the Filipino consumers’ activities while locked down include online TV/streaming and online video access, i.e. Netflix, youtube, kissasian, viu, iflix (78.5%), followed by use of broadcast media to listen and watching news (73.90%); doing household chores like cleaning and washing dishes (72.70%); praying, meditating and listening to online mass (67%); and watching regular television or cable (66.7%). Other activities include working from home (59.70%); posting in social media and viber (59.10%); exercising at home (56.70%); cooking or baking (50%); eating multiple times (47.60%); doing out-of-home shopping (45.50%); listening to spotify (39.70%); and hanging out with friends online (38.70%).  Trailing behind is online shopping and food delivery (35.80%); feeding and taking care of pets (30%); sleeping extensively for more than eight hours (27.30%); online education (23.90%); engaging in casual mobile gaming (20.90%); listening to radio music (19.40%); reading extensively including online press (18.50%); doing gardening (15.5%); doing arts and crafts (14.5%); jog or walk out of home (11.80%); engaging in multiplayer online gaming (7.9%); and nursing a relative at home (2.4%).

Going to church tops the activity most Filipino consumers will do once lockdown is lifted.

Church and faithful services (80%), going to work (71.20%), eating at a favorite restaurant (63.60%), going to a hair salon (61.20%), paying bills (58.20%), going to the mall (56.10%), and going to a bank (50%) are among the activities Filipino consumers will actively engage in within the first two weeks from lifting of the ECQ.

Consumers will most likely to return to their normal activities one day to two weeks after ECQ lifting.

Nearly 30% of Filipino consumers are likely to go back to their normal activities a day after the ECQ is lifted while 28% should resume their activities one week after. Another 18% are taking things more slowly and should resume normal activities two weeks later. Still, some are more cautious and will resume normal activities only after three months, soon as vaccine has been developed or when public transport is more regular and normal.

Spa, healthy food, appliances and eyewear/eye care essentials are among the categories likely to be consumed within two weeks after lifting of ECQ lockdown.

Basic necessities, personal hygiene, and pharmaceutical products remain to be the top three categories to be heavily consumed even after lifting of ECQ. However, two weeks upon lifting, spa and massage services come on top along with organic and healthy food, fitness supplements, hair care essentials, home appliances, petroleum, travel, eye care essentials, cosmetics. Automobiles are far down the list of categories to be patronized along with pest and infection control services, cigarettes and nutraceuticals.

Products and services that invested in branding pre-COVID days were actually the same brands remembered during post-ECQ days.

Products and services that made investments in branding through the years were likewise the most recalled in their categories and likely to be patronized post ECQ. Among these are Green Cross rubbing alcohol (rubbing alcohol and dinfectant); EO-Executive Optical (optical store); Nescafe and Kopiko (instant coffee); Monterey (fresh meat); Mac and Maybelline (cosmetics); Samsung, LG, Sony, Panasonic, Carrier, Everest (major home appliances); and Sky Flakes (biscuit), among others.

Why do strong brands pre-COVID came out stronger post ECQ and are more resilient?

Post ECQ, consumers are willing to pay premium for their top of mind brand. Strong brands are stamped with the guarantee of their familiar, memorable name, brand equity message and product quality.

Business owners must not forget that businesses and their products and services exist for consumers. A product or service must be a brand with strong brand equity to remain in the memory of consumers post ECQ. Ironically, a strong brand must have been built pre-covid period. In a post ECQ world, a simple name recall or a pure media flooding noise strategy or celebrity endorsements may likely not work. Only 10% potential viewers are receptive to celebrity endorsement themes post-COVID.

Consumers, more than ever, will resort to brands they have tried, tested and are engaged to because of consumers’ economic pressure, tightened money belts and to some a desire to feel good mental state after a personal disruption and crisis.

When there is a limited source of income and money, consumers are likely to keep money close to their chest and will not experiment on untried and new non-essential products and services. The same with wealthier buyers who desire to feel good and may opt to buy higher priced options across the product range of their favored brand.

E-commerce and the digital economy powered by logistics and supply chain will become a stronger distribution option in the post ECQ pandemic world as new and existing consumers became savvier in its usage during lockdown.

However, consumers resort to this option for familiar, regularly used brands; and mainly essential and commodity items like fresh meat and produce, commodity pantry supplies, etc. Still, when using the website or social media, there must be familiarity with the brand or in its absence, good customer reviews.

Post ECQ, trying products and services for experimentation will be on a downtrend as money becomes tight, consumers are cautious and there remains an air of uncertainty.

Pre-COVID or post-ECQ pandemic, the correct way of branding products and services remain an important business strategy and must be sustained. Pulling in consumers to fuel business and branding, pandemic or not, almost always has strong leadership, often owners themselves, behind brands. These leaders do not cave in when faced with competitive, economic, pandemic and all sorts of threats; rise above challenges, are quick to decision making, and recognize opportunities everywhere. Business owners must realize that the survival of their brand and business is dependent on the consumer alone.