The pandemic has upended everyone’s world. A new world beckons on the other side. Brands we once loved (airlines, hotels, destinations, multiplexes, restaurants, malls) had to be forgotten as our habits were broken. Newer brands have made their way into our lives (ecommerce, food delivery apps, OTT, games, edutech). On the other side of the pandemic and we are almost there thanks to the vaccines, our lives will be different. The pandemic has changed each of us in different ways.
I was an avid traveller. In the 12 months before the start of the pandemic, I made six US trips on Air India. As a family we must have watched tens of movies at Inox and a few at PVR. Every alternate week, we ate out at one of our favourite restaurants. We roamed Phoenix on lazy Saturday afternoons. As I look ahead, how many of those brands will come back in my life with the same intensity? How many of them have made an effort to keep their hotline with me alive? How many of them even know that I existed prior to the pandemic? It is a question each of us can answer about some of our once-loved brands. And more importantly, brands should answer about their once-loyal customers.
Air India continues to send me monthly frequent flyer mileage updates as if the pandemic didn’t even happen. Inox and PVR don’t even know about me. Agreed, at times, I made the bookings via BookMyShow, but there were plenty of times I booked directly on their website. Could they have at least kept the relationship alive and regaled me with stories from our joint past about the movies and moments we experienced together? Phoenix also doesn’t know me, and they really should. Ten years and perhaps more together. And what of the restaurants…so many of them have lost me to Swiggy and Zomato. Quattro and SpiceKlub even have me as part of their loyalty programme – they know every meal I ate. Why would they forget me so easily and hand over the relationship, profits and value to someone else?
A decade ago, it didn’t matter because few of us had a digital identity. Today, each of us has two – an email address and a mobile number. It costs so little to reach out to us and keep the relationship going – a few emails and messages will cost less than a rupee a month. For Rs 10 a year, brands can keep us engaged and delighted. Most brands chose not to – and it’s a choice they have made consciously, because they are putting ten times more money to either acquire us via the tech and media platforms, or pay as commissions to the marketplaces. In doing so, they lose the connection with us and future profits. If a brand today does not use its first contact with us to ask us for an opt-in relationship, they are making a huge mistake – because they will spend many times more in reconnecting with us.
The post-pandemic world is even more digital; many years of growth have been compressed into months. The smartphone has become a lifeline for many – taking us to places where we physically cannot. It has expanded our world of possibilities as we discover new uses of the time created by working from home. In this always-competitive world, the fast eat the slow, the smart eat the ignorant. Brands who ignore their existing customers in search of the new, brands who fail to build relationships when they have the opportunity, brands who prioritise acquisition over retention, brands who allow attrition rather than enable attraction – these brands will fall by the wayside in the years to come. A new world is surely upon us – it is a world where attention matters because our choices and distractions have exploded. Brands must face up to this world of attention recession – and the answer lies in Attention Messaging.