In conversation with Social Samosa, Varun Alagh speaks at length about Mamaearth’s marketing and communication strategy & the role of its ‘Goodness Ambassadors’ in helping the brand create an engaged community.
Harping on ‘responsible marketing’, Mamaearth and its goodness ambassadors have taken upon themselves to spread smiles and fulfill hopes in these uncertain times. Where the personal care industry seems to have largely impacted by the ongoing crisis, Varun Alagh, Co-Founder of Mamaearth tells us the coping mantra, how to keep consumers in the loop through social media communication, and marketing ‘personal care’ in the times of COVID-19.
As a brand, how are you approaching COVID-19? How are you trying to help your consumers survive this difficult phase?
During the initial days of the lockdown, we worked with the Mamaearth network of influencers, employees, and customers to appoint “Goodness Ambassadors” in the community. We tied up with our local manufacturers to get 50,000 sanitizers manufactured & distributed during the first phase of the lockdown.
We then leveraged our Goodness Ambassadors —they not only spread awareness about the WHO guidelines for precautions against the infection but also distributed free sanitizers to people like security personnel, healthcare workers, delivery agents, domestic help, and others who needed it the most.
As the lockdown eases, and people are starting to venture out a little bit, we are leveraging these Goodness Ambassadors to distribute 20,000 custom-made masks in their community. These face masks have a simple smile printed on them, emphasizing the need for warmth and joy even in these distressing times.
How do you view the impact of COVID-19 on the Beauty and personal care industry?
People are unable to leave their homes, which means categories like travel and big-ticket luxury spending has taken a big hit. At the same time, people are looking for lower ticket items to spend their money on even while they’re indoors. They’re also looking for self-care products in a big way — and that’s where niche personal care products are likely to win big.
Please take us through the marketing strategy for Mamaearth. According to you, what kind of message should be put out by brands considering the sensitive times?
The fundamentals of our marketing strategy have always been in line with ‘Goodness Inside’. I think this brand purpose has really been a guiding light when it comes to brand messaging during these times. We are cautious about not spreading any message that perpetuates and exacerbates the fear and anxiety that people are already going through. Neither do we try to downplay or diminish the enormity of the situation in any way.
When the pandemic became prominent in India in March, most brands had to revisit their marketing & communication strategy. What was it like for Mamaearth?
We didn’t really have a shift in strategy. As the pandemic came to India, and there was a lot of panic and worry, not to mention economic distress, our focus immediately went to helping people in the best way that we could. This meant creating a network of community influencers (Goodness Ambassadors) and working with manufacturers to get sanitizers and masks produced and distributed. Naturally, as our action on the ground shifted, our marketing strategy organically shifted to match this. We simply started showcasing the work that was happening on the ground. Hence, we’ve not had to make changes in our content strategy.
How has social media been helpful in engaging with your consumers? Which platform has yielded maximum results for the brand?
For us, keeping our content relevant has always been a priority. Our Goodness Ambassadors initiative was formed from the need to reach out to consumers during this pandemic with the right information & awareness, and also by sharing sanitizers and face masks as required. So, at one level, we showcased what was happening on the ground on platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
The next step was to understand what kind of content would be relevant to our consumers during this time. We realized that this was a time where people were constrained to their homes, with little scope for physical and mental wellness. So, we built a lot of our content to solve this issue. For instance, we conducted Instagram live sessions on fitness regimes. This was done in partnership with our consumers to make the content more relatable.
How does the team coordinate to execute the real-time marketing strategy? Please take us through your creative, communication & marketing team’s day to day hustle?
At a time when physical interaction isn’t possible, over-communication has been the key.
We get on a video call at least once every day, even if it’s just for 15 minutes. The purpose of these calls varies — sometimes it’s a simple prioritization of jobs; other times, it’s a brainstorming session, and sometimes it’s just a virtual watercooler chat. This ensures each team member knows what’s happening, and the role their work plays in the larger scheme of things. It also ensures that during these uncertain times, the team is flexible enough to pick up on the tactical opportunities that emerge through organic conversation.
Please take us through your media mix. What kind of a role does social media play in the next few months?
Being a digital-first brand, social media is at the center of our marketing media mix. This was the case pre-pandemic, and it’s unlikely to change any time in the future. Organic engagement on Instagram, especially with crowdsourced and consumer-focused content, has been an excellent way for us to build a connection with our consumers. We love to engage with them and celebrate them on our online platforms.
With changing consumer behavior at this time, what are the changes in consumer trends observed during the lockdown?
In India, online shopping accounts for just 1.6% of total retail sales. In a post-pandemic world, this is definitely going to increase in a big way— behavior patterns are especially starting to shift in Tier 2 and 3 towns. Areas like health and hygiene are going up in a big way, for obvious reasons. This is also a time of great uncertainty, and brands who are purpose-driven and are known to walk the talk, are the ones who will be able to win consumer trust.
The pandemic has seen the entire Advertising & Marketing industry evolve to rise as one and help citizens. What are some of the marketing trends you have witnessed in these times in the category?
Many brands, as well as people in their individual capacities, have risen to the occasion and done their bit to help out during these tough times. While a few brands have tried to take commercial advantage of the situation, most have really shown that there is goodness in all of us. Many of our partners, especially in manufacturing and logistics, have contributed by ensuring the supply of essentials, even during the lockdown.