The world is collectively grappling with the outbreak of COVID-19. In this scenario, brands and marketing teams will not be mere observers but will play a critical role. It is the litmus test of them more as responsible social institutions rather than mere corporate entities.

At this juncture it is vital that brands refrain from any kind of self-promotion. Brands must take it upon themselves to play their part by disseminating helpful information, expressing their solidarity and contributing in any helpful way.

As this unprecedented crisis unfolds several brands have started using the national flag in their communication. While this is an attempt to connect with the populace, care must be taken to ensure that it does not go overboard.

It has also been extremely reassuring to see the steps that brands have taken to show their sensitivity to the current situation. A number of them have reduced the size of their logos in advertisements, chosen light or regular fonts instead of bold ones and in general refrained from overpowering communication.

However, it is not just the brands that can contribute, publications too can help the cause. It would be a great idea if publications came forward with special advertising rates. This would not only help brands but also work for publications as they witness a slump in the demand for advertising space.

On a related note, the move by Mumbai Municipal Corporation to advertise in outdoor space is a very welcome one. However, it is disheartening to note that no brand has come forward and taken the initiative.

This is a time when brands can have an impact that will be far greater than what any kind of advertising can achieve. By connecting with people across strata they can establish a genuine connect with them and find a place that is more in the hearts of customers than in their minds. But what is sacrosanct is that the intent must be one free of ulterior motives as petty goals will backfire and result in more losses than gains.

This is a test of brands and corporate India. The keen marketing mind will no doubt be intrigued and closely watch the events as they gradually unfold. As a marketeer, an Indian and above all a human being, I hope that brands emerge as compassionate and empathetic.

I look forward to hearing your views on this. Please share your feedback and feel free to weigh in.