OPINION. Anca Bacaianu (United Media Services): How to thrive as a brand in a strong economic and social crisis

Newsroom 25/03/2020 | 12:29

There is no doubt in anybody’s mind that covid-19 generated crisis is one that we haven’t seen before and one that brings tons of challenges for the business environment, worldwide. The consumers are more cautious about everything and the companies and brands must make sure they are doing all their best to be there for them. A bit of optimism and a lot of strong will power will carry the brands and their stakeholders further on and will keep them in consumers’ mind long time after the crisis will be over.

By Anca Bacaianu, Head of Strategy and Research, United Media Services


They say one must learn from the past in order to really succeed and avoid future mistakes. And sometimes we look back and need to wonder what the Romanian communication industry learned from the 2008-2010 economic crisis in order to be stronger for today and for the future. Even the contexts and the reality are very different now, compared to then, one thing is for certain: digital represents the media that has been always growing and developing and seizing opportunities for the past 10 years. Digital was the only media that wasn’t impacted by the crisis and continued to grow, as the data gathered three years from the economic crisis proved. Between 2008 and 2011, the investments in digital media doubled. At the moment we are estimating that the online adspend is about EUR 100 million on monitored media alone and will be on a positive trend for many years to come, not to mention that it might be more than double if we take into consideration international platforms as well. TV is also a media highly used due to its capabilities of delivering fast awareness and moving products from the shelves or better said virtual shelves.

Also on the plus side, when it comes to the categories that grew, we can definitely mention, health, food, telecom on top of which nowadays we add e-commerce for almost all categories.


Back in the present day

What happens these days with the worldwide covid-19 pandemia demonstrates us that we are being hit by a new economic and social crisis, amplified by the forced social distancing that will have an impact on the population from many points of view.

What I perceive is that the evolution of the crisis will follow, mostly, the steps of the other crisis: the economy will suddenly slow down, the population will have less money and will think twice before buying a certain product or service. The categories that will thrive once again are food & beverages, retail, pharma & health, the essential and hygiene products (“panic buying”). At the same time, the telecommunication services will still be on top as a response to the social distancing, and the consumption of mobile & internet services will grow as well.

On the downside, the categories that will be most of all impacted are: luxury, fashion, beauty, travels, events, automotive, banking, durable goods and everything that is not essential for the present situation.

Moreover, a tendency that started to be seen more and more in the recent years will grow even faster – most of the commerce will go online, with significant growth especially on the home and food delivery. The brands and the companies that will know how to act fast and set the trends will be, once again, on the winning side of the table.

The good thing is that the Romanian communication industry knows how to deal with a crisis. We have a creative and determined pool of professionals, agencies and clients that are ready to work together, don’t panic and create a better environment for all of us. It knows how to tackle the situation and how to approach it in order to bring positive vibes and energy, when needed the most.

One of the biggest learnings one must take is how to seize the opportunities regarding the work-from-home situation, imposed by the covid-19 pandemia:

  • The TV consumption is growing from day one, even among the young target, therefore the companies must continue to invest on this media
  • The consumption of PPV services is growing as well (Netflix, HBO Go), online video (YouTube), music streaming (Spotify, Youtube Music). The number of online searches has been growing ever since week one and many people – especially in the affluent segment – will get updated on these types of services if they haven’t done it already.
  • The online continues to grow and will keep on doing so: the traffic on the Romanian websites grew with 26% during the last week; the online orders grow, especially on food delivery – as an alternative to eating out and shopping out; people play more online, especially the younger target; on the rise are also the Google searches for suggestions for spending time at home and fighting boredom, cooking recipes, fitness tutorials, etc; the concerts and events are moving online (either live or recorded), the online classes and video conferences are a daily operation; the usage of podcasts will also grow significantly
  • When it comes to topics, the news are a top interest subject as people want to get informed and be up to date with the situation, both TV and online. News TV channels registered dramatic increases over the past week, surpassing main channels on certain time slots. The news websites traffic doubled, especially when it comes to news from fields such as economy/ financial/ business.
  • On the other hand, people try to overcome their anxieties and fears by consuming more entertainment: Gen Z in particular will chose video games and the likes of Playstation and Xbox, Millennials will choose streaming media (Netflix, HBO Go, YouTube), while older generations will spend most time watching television shows.


We will all have more time for:

  • Cooking: the basic products fly over the stores’ shelves (flour, oil, meat), therefore more people will start searching online for more cooking recipes and tutorials, and will watch cooking shows on TV.
  • Cleaning and organizing the house: declutter/ Marie Kondo’s tutorials, a grow on small furniture and accessories sales, DIY products, etc; therefore, the brands in the DIY and home & garden areas can have an advantage during this time if they offer a frictionless e-commerce experience to the customers
  • Practicing sports at home, and that will result in more downloads of fitness mobile apps, YouTube tutorials, dance lessons, etc. The brands in the sport and gym/ fitness will offer recommendations and inspiration to all the interested people on how to continue to be in shape through live fitness classes, how tos, etc.
  • Mental health, fighting anxiety, mindfulness, being present, that will result in a growth in food supplements sales, meditation (including mobile apps), life coaching and psychologists’ online sessions.
  • Reading – the consumption of e-books and online books sales should grow as well.


What brands and companies must do/ not do:

  • Be transparent and authentic in communication, no matter what; not be opportunistic & not take advantage of the context by raising prices due to high demand
  • Not go completely dark and stop communicating, as this will affect brand equity; marketers should use this time to reinforce the consumer relationship
  • Communicate more around brand identity and core values, and not prioritize profit and gains; keep the message simple and efficient
  • Be relevant, flexible and adapt fast to the new context; marketers who have not done it yet, should transfer their products and services in online, as online will become an important channel of purchase, so the presence here is mandatory; reallocate the advertising budgets from event and experiential to the growing TV and digital
  • Empathize with consumers’ needs and anxieties; take all the necessary precautions for their health and safety; try and bring a smile on their face
  • If possible, donate and support causes and people in need; the crisis will eventually pass and the people will not forget brands’ human gestures
  • Last but not the least, brands and companies must protect themselves in the short-term but without losing the focus on the long-term goals.

New times are coming once again and we must learn how to adapt, but also think ahead. Somehow, the worse it gets and the longer it lasts, the better the chance to rebuild something far more wonderful for the future.


About Anca Bacaianu

With a Bachelor Degree in Marketing from the Economics University in Bucharest, Anca started her career as Market Analyst for Daedalus Millward Brown, one of the biggest research companies in Romania and continued her career at the media agency UM Worldwide for almost 12 years. Now she is part of United Media Services’ leading team since October 2016.

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