Post-pandemic climate is brimming with opportunity. By tilting our perspective and analysing the trends, we can best capitalise on the opportunities, writes Zeenah Vilcassim
Many of us have seen and experienced more change in the last year and a half than we have in our entire careers or lives for that matter. As human beings we are hardwired to resist change, our brains interpret change as a threat that makes us fear it, fight it, or run away from it. However, when embraced smartly, change can lead to progress, innovation, and growth.
I’ve come to realise that among the chaos and uncertainty of the past year, there have been incredible learnings and successes that I remind myself to celebrate. Now that we are coming out of the pandemic slowly, we are all experiencing a shift in mindset, which in the future will hopefully prove to be fruitful and effective not just professionally but also personally.
Embracing change smartly is to embrace it with empathy
To take care of your business, you must take care of your employees. For most people and companies, there has been a massive shift in strategy, along with business growth the focus also lies in building a healthy and safe work environment with consumer and employee wellbeing being the priority. In other words, the human element of every business — flexibility, resilience, empathy, trust, collaboration, and transparency should be the key qualities required to create a modern and successful work culture, that reassures employees and consumers that a business is more than just a place of work, but a community that rallies around each other when the chips are down. We moved from being pinned to our office desks to keeping global businesses running from the comforts of our homes overnight, quite literally. This came with both positive and negative aspects to it. On the one hand, many companies were inspired to place an increased level of trust in their employees and further the understanding of their personal lives. On the other hand, it meant people were working and investing longer hours as they physically weren’t checking out — like you would when you leave an office. Previously you had offices with gyms so employees could focus on their physical health, but now with the need to isolate, mental health was at risk. Businesses had to evolve the way they saw employee health and well-being. At our workspace, we made our ‘primos’ (the Spanish word for ‘cousin’ and how we refer to our colleagues) health and wellbeing top of the agenda. We shifted to an extremely flexible working style that let team members dictate the best times to conduct meetings and what their preferred mode of communication would be. We also offered our primos, and their families, free access to confidential counseling, an informational service helpline, and an internal emergency helpline. This is something that will now be a permanent offering moving forward. Having more empathy for our primos is something that is here to stay in our company for good and we hope it will only get stronger. An approach such as this can also be adopted as we — globally — aren’t completely out of the woods with respect to the pandemic.
Don’t be afraid to innovate (read: ‘fail’)
Fearless failures can lead to shining successes. If there’s one thing we all had to learn to do, it is to constantly adapt — feeling comfortable in the uncomfortable. The most successful business leaders were quick to realise that their businesses needed to analyse and evaluate their ways of working overnight — and they took the risk to make drastic changes despite the uncertainties. Throughout our 159-year history, we have weathered quite a few storms, which have only motivated us to rebuild even stronger. Resilience and fearlessness are ingrained in our way of operating. Our marketing teams were fearless in their approach to innovating during unprecedented times. As quick thinkers, we moved a music festival that would accommodate 40,000 plus people to a fully immersive digital and AR format, featuring avatars, gaming, and virtual reality experiences. We brought beverage experts to screens across the country who shared their skills and imparted valuable and in-depth knowledge in cocktail building, taste profiles, and food pairings. We had created home delivery kits with on-trade partners to give consumers the feeling of a luxury dine-out whilst dining-in. We connected families and friends across cities with streaming entertainment and virtual celebrations and brought together communities.
All of this, from the comfort and safety of their homes. We explored unusual digital formats and tested creative executions, which helped us remain more connected with our consumers than ever in a physically distanced world. All while, we ensured this was executed seamlessly in line with the brand’s ethos.
Consumers are the beating heart of everything we do
Our consumers are the centre of everything we do and they above all unlock growth for us as a business — but only when we truly add value to their lives. Virtual celebrations, upskilling, mass digitisation, premiumisation, convenience, live streaming — these were just a few of the changing trends that were witnessed during the lockdown. While many may interpret this as ‘putting the consumer first’, we must strive to take this further as it is the consumers who guide the way we do business — from the products we introduce to the way we communicate, to the experiences we create, and the works. From the sourcing of ingredients to telling interesting brand stories, to how to make the perfect cocktail, consumers are becoming more and more educated about spirits. We saw that consumers came out of the lockdown stronger but also sharper, many dwelled into their hobbies and some even discovered new interests. Having said that, consumers today are a lot more well-versed with culinary and mixology — which is great because now we can connect with our consumers on a whole new level. We held various virtual sessions during the lockdown with our mixologists to keep the interest and education alive for our consumers. We will only introduce, execute, or create anything if we’ve listened and learned from our consumers and know it will add value in their lives.
It’s all about premiumising
In the last few years, the population of the middle-class segment has grown, giving a rise to consumers with more disposable income. This increase has resulted in the demand for premium products and experiences. Another factor that has contributed to this demand is the rise in consumer knowledge. Consumers now educate themselves to know what to consume and how to consume, they are open to exploring new flavors and categories too. As brands, it is our responsibility not just to educate them but also to be transparent in what we offer, and so this knowledge drives a consumer to be more value driven, wanting to consume premium and buy premium, so much so that home bars now look like luxury back bars with variety. Earlier consumers would spend by stepping out, dining at a restaurant but now consumers have redirected their expenses to buy for the home consumption occasion. With premiumisation setting into the market, we at Bacardi are launching our premium products soon.
Memories trump Merch
The new generation wants to grow, educate, learn and connect with each other through experiences more than anything else. For them, moments are more valuable than material possessions. They look at experiences to connect them with others, whether it’s a music festival, a celebration, or a unique cocktail. It is no longer about what we own, rather it has shifted to what story we can tell. And this shift has come into play due to a rise in disposable income and an increase in usage of social media. Everyone now wants to share their experience online. Consumers demand an extraordinary experience to shape them further.
Convenience as way of life
As we all know, we live in a world where everything is reachable at a click of a button or a tap onto our smartphones. Having said that, consumers demand a hassle-free and quick transaction with brands. Anything that requires too much time or effort drives consumers away. Covid has fueled this consumer behaviour. Convenience is a prerequisite. Nowadays, consumers expect everything to reach them in the comfort and safety of their homes, giving companies like us a great opportunity for home consumption. We want to deliver the best with the simplest consumer journey experience. Whether it’s hosting virtual workshops to educate consumers on mixology or just content that keeps them entertained — we make it a point to constantly be in touch with our consumers keeping their convenience in mind. Our take on home entertainment is to uplift celebrations for our consumers in the comfort of their homes.
By tilting our perspective, it can easily be considered that the post-pandemic climate is brimming with opportunity. And we must capitalise on these opportunities, we must analyse which trend or behaviour is here to stay and act on it before it’s too late.
Although there is an influx of innovative technology at our fingertips to enhance consumer experiences virtually, it is in times like this that human strategy prevails and guides how we do business. And it is with this human strategy in mind (and a little bit of creative rebellion) that our marketing strategies can truly flourish.
With no rulebook at our disposal around what the next “new normal” may be, so we must continue to be agile and work towards aligning our objectives using comprehensive strategies to execute and drive our business growth. The room this leaves for integrating creative strategy with traditional business models is abundant.
The writer is Marketing Director,Bacardi India