The COVID-19 crisis has made something painfully clear. Consumers can only thrive when stronger relationships are reinforced and everyone understands that we have to depend on one another on everything that matters.

The beginning of the pandemic heralded a period of uncertainty, deprivation, and anxiety, while billions of people globally searched for a sense of the ‘familiar’. Certain studies have also shown how brands have emerged to provide structure and meaning, which is related to higher perceived relevance and a stronger tendency to connect brands to the self.

Present in restaurants and eateries to kitchen cabinets and white plastic containers across almost all Nigerian homes, there is hardly, arguably, a better brand that could provide a sense of what appears true and familiar than Unilever’s Knorr brand. While global experts now reiterate the need for communities to step out of the shadows, emphasising safety while leading their normal lives, the consequences of the global pandemic demand urgent solutions. Better yet, it provides many customer-centric brands the opportunity to redevelop relationships and foster stronger emotional connections with customers.

Knorr is unarguably one of the leading seasoning brands on the continent. It is the most patronised seasoning brand in Nigeria, and one of the most innovative due to its many variants available in the market. Most importantly, it is one of the most popular brands in Africa — one that has successfully carved a niche for itself in the market even amidst intense competition. It is obvious that companies are adapting their strategies to appear cause-related, but Knorr’s focus on addressing sustainability has been evident for decades. The brand has been a purveyor of innovative foods for over 175 years and has actively worked with farmers, suppliers, and chefs to achieve its commitment to source all vegetables, herbs, and cereals sustainably. At the beginning of 2021, the food and seasoning brand launched ‘Eat for Good’, a global campaign encouraging people to change the world by swapping one ingredient in their routine meals for nutritious food that is better for the planet.

Apart from dealing with a world that has to find a solution to climate change, the current global reality, and how it affects health, lifestyle, and the economy, also provides a suitable moment for brands to support customers and foster excellent brand-consumer relationships. As the country gradually reopened last August, the leading seasoning brand announced the launch of its 2021 consumer promo where 24 winners carted away a cash prize of N12,000,000, with N500,000 given out weekly over 12 weeks. Through the Knorr Nigeria ‘Unwrap and Win’ consumer promo, over 20,000 consumers walked away with instant gifts such as microwaves, blenders, cooking sets, aprons, chopping boards, umbrellas, and more. According to the brand, the promo was aimed at rewarding loyal consumers while also encouraging more households to sample its range of products made with natural ingredients.

The weekly live grand prize draw was held across different cities, including Port-Harcourt, Enugu, Owerri, Ibadan, Lagos, and Onitsha. Mrs. Fatobure, one of the winners of the N500,000 grand prize said, “Winning this promo has really changed my life. It came at a time when my family was very broke, but now I can cater for them and also buy more fish to expand my business”. Another winner that emerged from Enugu, Mr. Ikenna couldn’t believe it when he got the call that he had won the cash prize. “I have never received such good news before, especially from a promo. So when I confirmed it was true, I danced like David danced”, he said.

Over the past two years, there have been increased calls for brands and organisations to get involved in social and human issues, with the intent to support vulnerable people in the society and encourage those in need of emotional support. Even when such interventions might negatively influence shareholder value, such activities result in more positive consumer attitudes and larger purchase intentions.

Interestingly, these activities become more effective when they connect with the authenticity of the brands that initiate them. During last year’s International Women’s Day, Latasha Ngwube, a media practitioner and celebrity influencer said: “In my research on who Unilever is, and its stance in this ever going battle against gender inequality, I discovered that for a company that has over 149,000 employees among 10,000 managers globally, the company has succeeded in maintaining a 50-50 men-to-women ratio, giving them 5,000 male managers and 5,000 female managers”. With such success, that positions the Knorr brand as a frontrunner to drive conversations about gender equality and female empowerment in Nigeria. In April 2021, the brand commenced a month-long television special featuring twelve phenomenal women to discuss issues such as gender stereotypes, femininity, sexuality, tokenism, and patriarchy.

The time for empathy is now. Brands have to stay invested in consumer relationships and leverage opportunities to show that they will always stand by the customers. The ‘trick’ is to explore engaging and interesting ways that reflect how they are genuinely concerned rather than trying to force-fit the product storytelling into an issue. For example, it was not shocking to witness Knorr brand managers giving out large gift packs to essential workers across the country during the Christmas season. Through the #SeasonOfThanks campaign – which has become quite popular on the streets of Lagos, the brand has continued to redefine the true essence of the season by putting smiles on their faces.

Consumers become more engaged with products and attach greater value to connections with reliable, often important, and well-known brands. Such brands are linked to extensive mental networks of brand associations that are formed through consumers’ interactions, either with the products or the communications. These mental networks include associations related to quality and other functional benefits, but also more symbolic associations that express and reflect upon consumer identity. At such a time of uncertainty, more people and organisations are placing emphasis on the mental and emotional, which also makes the functional and symbolic roles of brands such as Knorr more relevant. For everything that matters, the brand’s investment in building healthier communities, supporting happier people and creating a sustainable environment remains key to making a difference for consumers.

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