This past week, the Coronavirus aka Covid19 was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organisation. This means that the virus is now a matter of global concern and cannot be taken lightly. It affects every sector of the economy, from arts and culture to travel and tourism. And of course, some sectors are more affected than others. 

We have seen stocks plummeting in the markets, with some of the world’s most richest people losing some of the wealth. Jeff Bezos (Amazon Founder) who is the world’s richest person has already lost about $14 billion since the beginning of the month due to the Coronavirus.

So what does this mean for the brands owned by these rich people? 

Every brand irrespective of the sector in which it operates in is affected by this pandemic and should be concerned. Some brands have already become casualties of the Coronavirus. Corona (the beer brand) has been reported to have lost over R4.3 billion in revenue in China alone, due to the spread of the Coronavirus. In South Africa, Corona is a leading brand in the premium beer segment and we are yet to see the impact thereof.

Social distancing

Social distancing is said to be one of the best ways of curbing the spread of the Corona Virus. In actual fact transmissions can be reduced by 25% if social distancing is imposed. For brands, this means that brands can’t have activations and leverage from any events that they sponsor because people will be required to stay at home. 

We have already seen some major events getting canceled such as the South by Southwest in the U.S – an annual media event got canceled due to the Coronavirus. Locally we’ve seen events such as the Heineken F1 Joburg, VIVO Nation, MTN Bushfire (in Swaziland) being postponed due to the outbreak. The brands behind these major events will miss out on the opportunity to showcase and give their consumers unforgettable experiences and increase brand love.

Social distancing does not only affect the brands but also the local people in the areas where the events will be hosted. The event organisers, drivers, the hospitality sector, vendors, etc lose revenue due to the cancellation/postponements of these events.

South Africa as a brand

The perception of South Africa as a destination has been also affected by the outbreak. How the country is responding to the pandemic will determine how it is being perceived by its counterparts and the continent at large. The economy of SA is not growing and the tourism industry is earmarked as one of the sectors to contribute largely to the GDP growth. Tourism has dropped by 3% globally and this will have a ripple effect on South Africa. 

This pandemic is also an opportunity for South Africa to be a shining example to the rest of the African continent, and to show the rest of the world that it is capable of managing a major crisis. There are also matters of international relations that South Africa has to consider when it comes to travel bans being issued.

Profits and People 

It is also in times like these where we see which brands really care about its people and customers and which brands put profits before people. It is without a doubt that personal care and hygiene brands are going to profit a lot from this pandemic. Some retailers have already increased the prices of hand sanitisers by almost 100% because of the increased demand. On the other hand, Apple, for example, closed all of its stores in China and Italy indefinitely to reduce the spread of the virus and committed $15 million to help with world recovery.  Gautrain made sanitisers available at their Sandton, Hatfield and OR Tambo stations, whilst other corporates disabled their biometrics systems. 

The opportunities

To conclude, in the midst of any calamity there’s an opportunity. This is the time for brands to show us how much they care about the people they serve. The opportunities lie in educating and increasing awareness about the pandemic. Brands need to be empathetic to those are affected.

This is also time brands need to take their digital marketing efforts seriously as people are now glued to their digital devices. For retailers, e-commerce is the way to go.

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Pat Mahlangu

Thokozani Pat Mahlangu is the editor of Pat on Brands and the founder and CEO of Lerato Agency. He is internationally certified digital marketing professional and an Mcom Business Management graduate from the University of Johannesburg.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Quiet insightful… Its worse than whats on the surface and social media

  2. Awesome piece

  3. Thank for sharing such insightful information. This simply means, more work for PR agencies once WHO establish the cue for this pandemic diseases.

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