A crisis triggers brand owners to reorient their marketing efforts, and usually, Advertising and Promotion (A&P) budgets are the first to be slashed. However, contrary to conventional wisdom, brands that have an enhanced presence during a crisis, such as the current Covid-19 pandemic, will be the ones to stand out post-recovery.

“In times of crisis, consumers take notice of brands that ’stand by’ them and show that they care. Inadvertently, such brands secure customer confidence and loyalty,” International Advertising Association Malaysia (IAA Malaysia) president John D. Chacko said, adding that this is the case with both multinationals and SMEs. “Besides generating economic value, brands play a critical role in fuelling economic recovery through innovation, creativity and optimism. They convey the source, quality and authenticity of products and services while representing pride, passion and trust, amongst others. Trust provides consumers with peace of mind that they have made the right choice. Consumers will remain loyal to brands they trust. Every ringgit counts and, in many cases, consumers tend to gravitate towards brands they trust because they have less time to experiment. The Edelman Trust Barometer 2020 concluded that 60% of people are turning more to brands they trust, especially in times of crisis,” said Chacko, one of the panellists at IAA’s “Why Brands Matter” webinar – the second of the three-part “BrandsMatter” webinar series.

The other three panellists were Adam Wee (former Group Chief Marketing Officer, CIMB and Maybank), Azrani Rustam (Corporate Affairs and Communications Director, JTI Malaysia) and Rudy Khaw (Chief Brand Officer, Air Asia Group).

AirAsia is a stellar example of brand pride. “Even as the airline and tourism industries were harshly affected by the pandemic this year, as a brand we never let that deter our vision. Airline aside, we have always been about the people and we used our familiar brand to not only help those in need but also reshaped our offerings to remain relevant and in tune with the people,” Khaw said. Looking back, he said, “The natural entrepreneurial mindset that’s ingrained in the business has allowed us to be a step ahead in ensuring all the building blocks were in place for moments exactly like this where we are ready to constantly evolve, taking for example going from in-flight food to restaurants in malls, and now food delivery.” Additionally, in May this year, the group ventured into the food delivery industry under the brand AirAsia Food, engaging with 500 other restaurants. Now, AirAsia Food is available under the airasia.com super app, which was unveiled last month. Eventually, the service will be extended to other countries including Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and Philippines.

Wee acknowledged that for brick-and-mortar businesses to gain customers’ trust, particularly with the millennials and Gen Z, can prove to be an arduous task even for brands that have been established over the decades. “This is an era of Brand Fragility. Where brands no longer need to be built over time and can equally be destroyed overnight. What’s important is for brands to be genuine.” “CIMB recognises that digital competency is key for businesses. That is why we partnered with an e-commerce solutions provider earlier this year to help local SMEs without digital presence to leverage on an online store platform, providing a complete suite of complimentary services and efficient digital payment platforms for these merchants,” he said. Wee added that as a brand, the move also helped set CIMB on the right path of being relevant to the country’s growing gig economy dominated by the millennials and Gen Z.

Meanwhile, Azrani pointed out that while brands have a significant role to play at a time when economies need rebooting, brands and brand owners need to be protected against challenges and threats that impact innovation and erode brand equity. “In times of economic crisis, there will be a natural threat to brands whereby consumers will compromise brand power for value, which could be manifested in the demand for cheap illegal products. There is a need to protect brands against threats as it affects the larger economic contribution of investments and jobs, should companies pull back on resources invested in developing brands,” he said.

To add significance to this Webinar, the IAA Global ‘We Love Brands’ campaign was officially launched locally, with the three creatives touching on Trust, Pride and Passion, taking on a Malaysia-centric approach.



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