Brand Renaissance With/After COVID-19

Together, we overcome.
Together, we create anew.

We pray for those who have lost their lives due to COVID-19, and we send our heartfelt condolences to the victims and their affected families who are currently suffering.
We also express our deepest sympathies to all management and their employees. There has undoubtedly been an immense impact on corporate and family businesses since the declaration of a state of emergency.

We would like to extend our utmost gratitude to all medical staff who are working hard amidst all uncertainties of this disease and fears of medical collapse.

In all 200,000 years of human history, pathogens have posed a considerable threat to our existence. It goes without saying that this battle against COVID-19 impacts people's daily lives and economic activities all over the world. As we reflect upon our history, even the most grim of pandemics have ceased. No matter how dark the night may be, dawn will always come--a new horizon and a new future within our gaze, and within our grasp.

From the end of February, we adopted a system to facilitate smooth communication and workflow at Gramco. All of our employees switched to work from home, and we maintain our usual work schedule through remote meetings and video conferences. Similarly, meetings, sessions, etc. with our clients continue without interruption by utilizing a remote conference system.

Thoughts on with/after COVID-19 for businesses

Although there have been influenza, SARS, and MARS epidemics in recent years, a pandemic of such enormous scale has not occurred since the 1918 Spanish Flu, which infected one-fourth of the world's population (500 million) about 100 years ago. At that time, it was referred to as a common cold in Japan, but in actuality, it was a virus. The number of affected people from 1918 to 1920 (Taisho 7 to 9) reached 23 million in Japan.

During this Spanish Flu, a recession of the post WWI economy had occurred.

Moreover, with the 14th century Plague, the feudal system came to an end and democratization had progressed. The Renaissance spread thereafter from Italy to the rest of Europe, and the times moved forward from the Middle Ages to the modern day.

Halting the rapid spread of COVID-19 is first and foremost. Japan needed three years to end the Spanish Flu, which is unacceptable in today's era. Stopping the second and third waves of this virus to restore normality--as early as possible--is paramount.

However, businesses must look towards what lies ahead after COVID-19 (or how to live with COVID-19), maintain company value, and take measures to stop brand damage.

Consumer behavior changes due to COVID-19 pandemic

What will change because of COVID-19?

What could happen to consumer behavior? Under the state of emergency, there have been undesirable activities such as people flocking to obtain low stock items and subsequent price gouging. Nonetheless, a change in consumption has begun, and online shops will continue to evolve. The main advantages of shopping online thus far have been its speed, convenience, and affordability. After long periods of staying home, even middle-aged and elderly people who prefer shopping at brick-and-mortar stores are becoming more familiar with online usage. Online stores share their unique brand worldview and offer experiences similar to window shopping. With the aid of 5G (including VR, etc.), they will aspire to a higher quality shopping experience.

Strong brands are undoubtedly more likely to also earn strong results in online shopping.

In addition, physical stores will be expected to undergo further changes to be “worth the visit.”

After COVID-19 is fully contained, consumers are likely to enter a psychological state known as “revenge consumption.”

People may currently feel restrained, but once they are allowed to go out, they will satiate their desires of travelling, shopping, and eating out. As health consciousness becomes greater, the desire for learning will presumably increase not only among people with strong ambitions, but also among overall populations.

Changes in work style

The shift to remote work has been sudden, dramatic, and impactful. With the state of emergency declaration, this swift evolution was necessary and absolute. As a result, not only the younger generation, but also managers and executives have become familiar with this telework initiative. From now on, the incorporation of telework into our ways of working is widely expected. The introduction of 5G will also support this work style. In other words, our current situation is the catalyst for changing the way we work.

Work procedures will become more efficient. Though, there is a risk that language expression and communication may become rather blunt and emotionless. Remote conferences promptly end within the scheduled time--which is good and timely--but some argue that such conferences may turn superficial and end without deeper discussion.

Change of values

Perhaps the biggest change is in people's values.

With heavier online usage, accelerated digital transformation, and the continued demand for social distancing, we must avoid encouraging the feelings of isolation that may occur. More than ever, we must have empathy and boost mutual support.

On the company level, now is the time for leaders to be vigilant so that their employees feel connected and united. It is a crucial time to clarify the company's purpose in order to rise higher. After all, those results will indeed serve as the future basis for social thought.

On the other hand, clients and consumers will be stricter towards businesses. Needing a good reason to engage with a brand will become the norm. Brand message and its underlying concept will most likely need to transform.

Amidst these changing times, is your company/brand being able to clearly communicate its values and feelings to the people both within and beyond the company?

It is essential for companies to make arrangements and preparations for moving forward With Corona/After Corona, all while being aware of various changes that may occur.

As a Japanese branding firm with an enviable track record in Japan and a global foundation, Gramco's duty is to assist Asian brands to advance worldwide. With greater commitment, we work towards our mission so that these brands will continue to shine.

Together, we can overcome this pandemic. And together, we will create our new tomorrow.

June 2020

Atsuro Yamada
GRAMCO Limited
President and CEO

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