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In this new column, The Drum asks marketers across categories and geographies to share their experience of combating the Covid-19 crisis, the learnings along the way, how they tweaked their go-to-market strategies and what their new playbook looks like as they seek growth. This week Puneet Das, vice president marketing, beverages, India at Tata Consumer Products, shares his learnings and lessons. Das, based in Mumbai, oversees the beverage portfolio of one of the largest companies in the beverage segment in India.  

Marketing with a heart

The most important learning for brands during this crisis is to be authentic and try to ‘Walk the Talk’ when it comes to positively impacting society. During times like these, it becomes important to consumers on ‘how you make them feel’ and whether you can genuinely make a difference in their lives in a meaningful manner.

With the increased hours spent indoors, while there has been a rise of in-home consumption, but at the same time, due to decreased/minimal footfall, there has also been a clear impact on Out of Home consumption for the tea category. For instance, in Tamil Nadu (a South Indian state), Hot Tea Shops are an integral part of street culture and people from all walks of life frequent these tea outlets. However, this important segment faced severe challenges due to movement restrictions. With minimal income and the losses mounting every day, the hot tea shop owners struggled to stay afloat and were suddenly faced with an uncertain future.

Hence, Chakra Gold (one of our sub-brands) decided to launch an initiative to help some of these shop-owners combat stressful times and raise interim funds to tide over this challenging phase.  The innovation was in the way the funds were raised. While there were restrictions that prevented customers from stepping out for their daily cup of tea, they could still help the Hot Tea shop owners, by contributing the cost of one cup of tea (Rs. 10 per cup) through digital payment, from the comfort of their home. So, Chakra Gold tied up with a leading digital wallet provider, Bharat Pe, and set up a system from scratch to enable patrons to express their solidarity with these hot tea shop outlets by contributing through a digital wallet.

Opening new segments

In addition, while the trend for consumers to use natural herbs and spices and their home-made mixtures in their regular cup of tea has existed for some time now, it has become even more relevant in the last few months. Thus, Tata Tea Tulsi Green – a blend of Real Tulsi leaves and Green tea was launched in September last year in select cities and channels. The central idea was to use native Indian ingredient, Tulsi which has been traditionally known for immunity and other health benefits in our teas to create a product that tastes and feels good. Post the Covid-19 outbreak we have seen a surge in the demand for this brand.

Shaping up new customer experiences

While the current pandemic has caused a lot of disruption across the industry, it has also accelerated online content consumption and grocery shopping through eCommerce manifold. With restricted movements and the extended closure of cinema halls, releasing films on OTT seems to be the new normal for the world of entertainment. Looking at the relevance of the platforms in recent times and increase in  OTT /Online streaming consumption, Tata Tea Gold, a marque brand from Tata Consumer Products, did one of the first-ever industry collaboration leveraging online streaming and eCommerce platform through a pioneering partnership with Amazon (Prime Video and Amazon.in) for the release of the film Shakuntala Devi. (a recent Indian language film based on the famous mathematician by the same name.)

The big marketing learnings during Coronavirus

One of the biggest trends with this pandemic has been the ‘Safety first’ mindset of consumers dominating their decision making which has seen the acceleration of ‘Contactless experiences’. Even when the lockdown is starting to gradually ease, the consumers are likely to still be wary of returning to the so-called ‘pre-lockdown’ life. Hence, it has led to redefining of business models for certain categories, while from marketing point-of-view, it has led to ‘digital disruptions’ in order to engage with today’s consumers. However, the biggest marketing learning from last few months still remains for brands to be ‘authentic’ to their societal ‘purpose’ and ‘walk the talk’ in hours of such crisis.