By Alan Cerutti
Alan Cerutti is a Co-Founder, CEO and Strategic Director at Happiness Saigon — an award-winning creative connectivity agency based in Saigon, Vietnam and Brussels, Belgium. It has won numerous awards, including the Grand Prix at the The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. Happiness Saigon’s work is featured at the V&A Museum, London.
2020 will be a historical year, and brands and agencies are in for a ride. We are in a global recession, and for companies operating in Vietnam, this is the first time in a long time when they are facing an existential threat.
What lies ahead
We do not know yet the longevity of the COVID-19 crisis in Vietnam, or its full impact on the market. What we do know with absolute certainty, however, based on the evidence from outside of Vietnam, is that the short-to medium-term impact on business and consumer confidence, and in turn on the economy, is going to be negative.
This means brands should be seeking a new level of consultancy to navigate their way through the change, particularly as this is the first time many of us in a young and growing economy will experience a recession.
Here are two key principles for businesses to keep in mind.
Creativity means business, especially in a recession
It’s not as simple as “continue to invest, and you’ll be fine”. We believe that brands should invest, but thoughtfully and while tapping into the power of creativity.
Evidence and data from past recessions confirm that sustained investment in a crisis delivers a greater long-term business value, while cutting media investments is setting brands back years. A dangerous place to be, especially when others do the opposite because they believe it is easier to get an extra «share of voice» in a recession.
As Vietnam is entering a recession, it can be tempting for brands to choose to lay low, to lean too heavily on short-termism and KPI/performance plays. Yet, data shows that advertising effectiveness and brand health drop dramatically when there is a lack of creativity and insufficient brand-building efforts. When the share of voice dips below the market share, it opens up a space for competitors to move in.
Invest, but wisely. Go for media investment, boost your «share of voice», by all means. But whatever you do, tap into the «share of choice » through the power of creativity because consumers are and always will be the biggest distribution channel for your message.
Harness the power of creativity
It is fair to say that a recession generally triggers a desire for simplicity and a demand for trusted brands that are able to demonstrate value by tapping into these new habits.
Happiness Saigon is working from home. We have shifted our entire way of working to a “100% freedom, 200% responsibility” model. Our team’s online behavior shifted to ultra-connectivity across multiple devices and platforms. Probably, yours has too. As most people were requested to stay at home, new behaviors and habits are beginning to form. Some of them are better for family, society and the environment as we are learning to shop, consume, practice hygiene and exercise sustainably.
Brands that thrive in a recession are those that possess a deep understanding of their customers’ redefined buying and value decisions. Those brands adapt their sales/consumption funnel alongside the newly found consumer journey.
In the light of the current crisis, aside from investing in the power of creativity and building value, it’s important to adapt to this new reality.
A crisis rulebook:
- Avoid being opportunistic: Put ethics over profit. Be careful to not come across as commercial for the sake of being commercial. Show empathy and care for the impact of COVID-19 on the lives of your audience.
- Happiness is the best medicine: Laughter leads to happiness, and happiness leads to a better immune system. Build your brand’s light-hearted side on System 1 thinking (fast, instinctive and emotional), avoid being too rational.
- Be comforting: Bring out the values of the brand and develop your soft, human side through thoughtful copy and visual cues.
- Go virtual: Obviously! Be where your audience spends most of their time. Adapt to this side of the new consumer journey.
- Acts of kindness: Show you care with small acts that show your love for consumers. Don’t overthink it, just do it.
- Help people pass the time: Make your content worth their time. If it isn’t, they’ll switch off faster than ever before.
- Get through the crisis in style: Don’t be clichéd, have a voice and show personality. Your personality.
Brands have reach, brands have power and we’ve got all the assets to make a difference. In good and in bad times creativity is a means to adapt to the situation, find the solution and drive more positivity. Creativity is what will get brands through this.
Let’s tap into the power of creativity, Vietnam!