As children and adults, superheroes have captivated minds and etched themselves in our brains. They epitomize a ray of hope, a solution for all troubles and a sense of invincibility in the face of adversity. In this time of COVID-19, we need such superheroes more than ever. As businesses, you have a unique opportunity to emerge superheroes, serving customers - their changing needs, protecting them and reassuring them in an uncertain future. If done right, you are likely to endear yourself with your customers and leave a lasting legacy.
A superhero does heroic deeds and has the ability to do them in a way that a normal person couldn’t. Similarly, brands are seen using their unique powers of empathy, human connection, purpose, agility, adaptability to rise to the occasion. No superhero is complete without a costume that shields them. Some brands have their digital native costume to shield them, some are leaning in on data science and analytics costumes, while others who moved to cloud and virtualized have that to protect them. Some brands are getting their costumes stitched through accelerated digitization and virtualization in a matter of weeks, not months. We’re witnessing this phenomenon across industries – banks earlier used digital channels for convenience (self-service), now digital channels are used for relationship management, a necessity. Car insurance companies are giving credit back to consumers and discounts on renewals since their claims are at a record low, addressing financial insecurity. A fast-casual restaurant chain which used online ordering as an alternative channel, is now able to use that as the primary channel, capitalizing on earlier investment.
There is no superhero without a supervillain. Apart from the virus itself, there are several supervillains we are facing, surveys show that 81% of consumers in India are worried about their health, 67% are worried about their next payment and 57% are anxious about their future. Sickness, financial insecurity, job security are all some of the key villains that we face today. Health apps like Arogya Setu, stimulus packages from the Government, social distancing enforcement, reconfigured supply chains to procure goods and re-crafted fulfilment channels are a few of the weapons which allow businesses to keep their workforce employed and serve customers. Product innovation and customer experience focus are the need of the hour to fight the fear in the minds of customers, offering welcome relief to their anxiety.
All superheroes have friends, who are also superheroes, who collectively fight to win and watch each other’s back. Businesses today that are open to collaboration have generally emerged victorious as compared to others than have been rigid. High tech companies and telcos are partnering to support contract tracing. Last mile providers are collaborating with warehouses and groceries to deliver products and services to doorsteps. Ventilator manufacturers are open-sourcing their patents to allow large scale manufacturing. Academic institutions such as IITs and defence organizations are collaborating with businesses to design products such as disinfection chambers, infection-proof fabrics, masks, low cost ventilators. This is just the beginning.
Last but not least, all superheroes have dual identities, they are also normal people when they shed their costumes. There is always tension between the usually vulnerable and mild-mannered identity and the high-flying, flamboyant saviour. Superheroes have their alter egos.
TIME TO EMBRACE CHANGE
Each business has a history which made them successful. It’s now time to reflect and embrace change. It’s imperative for each business to closely review their investments – whether in marketing, technology, partnerships, geographical spread or products. The adrenaline that is making businesses respond to the situation as superheroes should be sustainable, perhaps irreversible. There are likely to be sacrifices and tough decisions to be made to live the life of a superhero and make tough choices. Looking inwards, businesses are embarking on rapid transformation and re-platforming. Looking outwards, we’re noticing this in the form of shared cabs now converting to ambulances, trains and hotels converting to quarantine facilities, middle seats in planes under the scanner and limited number of people in shops with queues outside to maintain social distance. Adjustments and sacrifices are likely to be the norm, going forward. An imperative to master managing dual identities in the near term.
As businesses today, you have a choice. To wait out the storm or become a superhero. Like the famous song goes, when you get a chance to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance. I hope you choose to be the superhero that our society needs. It’s time to discover your superpower, stitch and don your costume, and protect your customers and society in general. So which superhero will you be?