Like in other countries, the pandemic-incited lockdown in Romania strangled most of the economy at an unpredictable pace and wiped out entire branches of business, such as the tourism industry, like they never existed. People were losing jobs and curbing their spendings on anything other than food and medicines.
Business ad campaigns switched to advice on hygiene and safety measures, messages of optimism and support. My favourite TV ad was from Golden Brau beer maker: “From the depth of our hearts, we wish the day when we have a beer together come soon. It doesn’t matter what beer. All that matters is that we are back together at the same table.” The ad copy touched many hearts in during the lockdown.
The pandemic was a perfect moment for digitalization to kick in. Romanians used to be somewhat hesitant to adopt online payments, online shopping or online streaming services. Banks used their paid air time to explain how to use online banking for paying utility bills without leaving home. Offline businesses were making an effort to relaunch themselves online literally overnight, as all stores and malls got closed. The Romanian internet was enthralled with banners promoting online shopping:
“We are online now! Stay home and order online!” “Visit our new online shop! Don’t leave home unless it’s really necessary!” “Can’t come to us anymore? We will come to you!”
…and online payments for home deliveries:
“Salute your delivery man from a distance!” or “Less money to touch, more chances to stay healthy” Statistics shows a significant increase in online payments compared to the same period of the last year.
Catering to customers’ well-being became a new battleground for business competition. A PC store began advertising a hand sanitizer. A fashion company switched to reusable face masks. A jewellery brand built an ad campaign around keeping its warehouse sanitized at all times. Mini Prix, an online clothing store, started selling food with the delivery time of two to three days. It felt like a breath of fresh air because more traditional online food stores took a week or longer to deliver an order.
The home delivery service of Carrefour chose to target Facebook audience with a warm, friendly and practical messages: “Having breakfast at home, finally? Enjoy your precious morning moments with your family! We’re delivering everything to your doorstep!” “Working from home? Your plants enjoy more attention! Let us get you more soil fertilizer!”
Unlike in business, communication in politics remained bleak and largely untouched by the crisis. The political leaders failed to adapt their messages and the paternalistic tone of their voices to the new situation. The prime minister often contradicted the president, the health minister publicly argued with the interior minister.
What used to work yesterday in terms of marketing and PR does not work during the pandemic. Business, politicians and the public—all need to adapt. It really doesn’t matter what beer, as long as we are safe, support each other and protect ourselves against the uncertainty, be it a virus, environmental damages or corruption. One would wish these are the lessons learned from the COVID19 pandemic.