Education & Management with Nii Armah Addy … Covid-19 approach to customer communication: marketer v. customer

Nii Armah Addy is an Education and Management expert

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the face of everything. While some has said that the virus has come to stay, others say until a vaccine or for cure is discovered the virus will be around for two more years. There is the other group that believes that the virus has always been around and that it has only been discovered recently.

There are many talks surrounding Covid-19; whatever they are, be it true or false, humanity is living with it and the reality scares every mortal. But irrespective of the scare of the virus, life must go on, and customers have to be communicated to in order to make informed product purchase decision, all human beings are customers that require goods and services for continuous living. From the richest person to the poorest, communication is essential in making product purchase decision. Covid-19 has changed customer communication in the marketing mix.

In these series of articles, I will use the marketing mix approach to customer communication in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Traditionally, the marketing mix known as 4Ps consists of product, price, promotion and place. Later, marketing scholars added packaging, positioning hence 7Ps.

The diagram below represents the 7Ps of the marketing mix. I will use it as an illustration in these series of articles.

A diagrammatic representation of the 7Ps of the marketing mix

In reference to the diagram above, each P will be used to analyse the Covid-19 approach to customer communication in the eye of the marketer v. customer. The marketer now has a huge responsibility to communicate in a way to gain customer attention, and maintain customer loyalty with the assurance of product safety.

Principle 1: Product

Simply put, products are goods and services demanded by consumers. Consumers make purchase decisions based on the preference for goods and services. It is the case that decision makers are not always the final consumers likewise the final consumers are not always  the decision makers of the product.

Whichever way it is, there must always be a product-meet-consumer demand. The consumer is the beneficiary of competitive products. When producers perceive their products as though they are external consumers, then they attach quality metrics to production. Quality products seek consumer satisfaction first before profit. They know that customer satisfaction leads to customer loyal which translates into profit.

Covid-19 approach to communicating products to customers requires a different tact from what many organisations did in the past. Consumers have shifted from luxury goods to everyday necessities of life with anticipated vaccine or cure for Covid-19.

Communicating luxury goods and social high lifestyle, as before Covid-19, will require conscientious effort to win consumers back. Until then even basic products need to be communicated to invoke safety over Covid-19. Products that enjoy patronage are those that assure protection from Covid-19

Principle 2: Prices     

Pricing of products was highly abnormal in Ghana in the wake of Covid-19 which precipitated the need for lockdown. Consuming products like staple foods was increased in multiple percentages. Not only staple foods but all essential goods were increased without cognisance to the economic plight of many consumers in Covid-19.

In this Covid-19, products with low demand must be strategically priced to enjoy patronage.When income levels have dipped and many jobs lost, it is imperative for producers to be price-sensitive. After all, what is the essence of unaffordable products? Prices must be flexible to reflect the disposable income of customers.

Principle 3: Promotion

Promotion is way by which products are made known to customers. By promotion, the marketer makes known the unique attributes of the product to customers. Without promotion, products are swallowed by competition. Promotion comes in several forms using all the appropriate and affordable media, and the right personnel.

Covid-19 approach to communicating products requires that the product appeals to the health consciousness of customers, and has less human contact. This approach must incorporate innovativeness that communicates to the emotions of customers.

Principle 4: Place

Covid-19 has completely changed the arrangement of marketplaces. Redesigning a marketplace to factor in social distancing, will affect sales positively, otherwise marketers will have few customers at a time within their space. Depending on how effective the people are managed they may stay a little longer to patronise the product, or else they will leave. Customers want the utmost assurance that they will not be infected during product patronage.Virtual selling seems more appropriate however it will impossible in environments with little or no technology. If that happens maximising the physical space, health-wise, is paramount.

Principle 5: Positioning

How the marketer positions the product in the mind of the customer is very important. Perception matters a lot in product positioning. How do customers discuss your products to others? Some manufacturers take advantage of some circumstances to produce certain products.

In the wake of Covid-19, certain products like hand sanitizers and face masks are highly demanded. Some manufacturers not known for the production of such products started producing. The talk about them was with a mixed feeling.

Positioning a new product in Covid-19 must be one that assures customers of their health rather than the perception of a manufacturer’s attempt to making money.

Principle 6: Packaging

The aesthetics of a product is as important to customers as the content of the product. The product should have a striking appeal so much so that from a distance, it attracts customers and beats competing products. Covid-19 packaging of new products must have strong appeal to handling the virus.

This is not the time for luxury. All that customers want in products now is the assurance of their health. Effective products that will win the market are those that their packaging gives health assurance. This can be effectively done using digital marketing as this medium provides electronic space for more product description than printed on the product. Also the marketers must look as smart as their product package. Their appearance must equally communicate professional packaging. Covid-19 requires that health workers particularly, frontliners, dress to show their packaging of what is to be expected in the hospital.

Principle 7: People

The marketer v. customer is all about people. The people effect is internal and external and both sides concurrently. People are producers, marketers and consumers of products. The biggest casualty of Covid-19 is human beings, without whom products are meaningless. When you stretched the argument to animal life, you would still realise that it took human beings to ensure animal life. Therefore the essence of people in communication is not an option.

The 7Ps diagram has people as the pivot around which all marketing activities evolve. In Covid-19, the people have become more vulnerable to the virus. What marketers cherished, as physical human contact to effective customer communication is almost lost due to the scare of Covid-19. Marketing activities to win the confidence of customers must be strategically aligned to integrated marketing communication.

Who communicates is as important as what to communicate and the communication channel. Finding out the right person and the right channel through which to communicate the right message is the biggest task for the marketer now.

The best medium for reaching out to people in marketing communication now is through the use of technology where physical human contact is minimised to the barest minimum. Such communication should not lose the human touch. Though through technology, it must be customer friendly, and must respond to all questions as an oral face to face interaction.

Even within organisations, internal customer relations will now be more technologically enabled to reduce or avoid the spread of Covid-19. Internal communication systems must be as well developed as the external communication. If proper internal communications is not ensured, it will only be a matter of short time that the external communication will break down.When the people factor goes wrong everything in the marketing mix will breakdown hence the beginning of the end of the product life cycle.

In conclusion, all that marketers need to communicate to customers is the assurance of health when products are being purchased in this covid-19 pandemic using the 7ps.

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