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Srđan Šaper: The future of our brands depends on how they position now

Growth is guaranteed for the marketing companies that have been able to quickly and efficiently change their organization model, show empathy in everything they do, advise clients in an honest, neutral and knowledgeable way, and accept that the social impact of brands will be their stand fast in the future.

„Undoubtedly, we are at the beginning of what we have only seen in movies or read about in history books. Of course, one has to be optimistic, firstly because the planet has never been so connected, science has never been so developed and never, I believe, will there be such a unique effort, human and financial, of the entire scientific and pharmaceutical community to find the drug and vaccine for coronavirus as soon as possible. In the meantime, we should adapt to the disciplined life that this situation dictates and show great responsibility, solidarity, and patience,” says Srđan Šaper, founder of I&F grupa about the situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

At this point, we all need solidarity. The communication industry has the knowledge, and the experience; does it now have an even greater obligation to promote true values?

More than other people or companies, we are the ones who can remind the public about this through our work. Let’s take the lead, set an example and show our creative ideas and our values, which are so very important these days. Solidarity is a condition for success, both as a company and as a civilization. Therefore, there will never be enough of nice gestures, kindness, and caring. Colleagues from our SDG agency in Norway are running a campaign for their country’s brand under the slogan Stronger Together. We have proven that this applies to us as well. We have also shown great solidarity with the society we live in and with each other, and I think that in the days to come we will be ready to continue as far as we can. I am proud that as a company, with the support of our employees, we were among the first to join the UNICEF Serbia campaign and purchase five respirators for health centres.

Advertising cannot exist without advertisers and the media. Is there awareness among all parties that communication and a proactive approach may now be needed more than ever?

We will do our best to be as good partners to our clients as we have been so far. We will come up with new ideas, tailored to the media and logistics challenges our clients are now exposed to. I think it is paramount that we help our clients understand how important it is not to break off communication with consumers, which is a temptation many will feel. Our experience, research, and analysis will help us convince them. The strength of our brands in the future will depend on how they position themselves now. We will be optimistic because, at the end of this crisis, a better world may emerge that will have more understanding for all people and the entire planet.

The world is changing before our eyes, from our habits to how we communicate. Is all this a transient occurrence caused by the global situation, or will we have to accept that nothing will ever be the same again?

If someone told us twenty days ago that we would live in a society where no one across most of the globe was leaving the house unless they had to, in which the vast majority of employees work from their living room, where restaurants, cinemas, theatres, playgrounds, gyms, shopping malls, and hair salons are closed, in which people thousands of miles away do the same – wash their hands for no less than 20 seconds and stay at least two meters away from each other, where no planes fly, the hotels are closed, there are no tourists and business meetings, borders are impassable and newspapers have ten times less circulation – realistically, we would not believe all that is possible. Behold, it happened, quickly and effectively. A world is being created, one that will not return to what it was, but create the new normal when all this is over.

You mentioned the “new reality”. What will it be like?

What this new normal is going to be like – that might be the topic primarily for us, communication experts. Within it, there will be one important connecting point – the whole world will have the same experience, the experience of dealing with the danger that is the same for everyone. I hope that the fact that, for the first time in the history of human society, we have all stood before a common enemy, will be enlightening for all people and show how much we are all the same wherever we live.

Certainly, many things will change. Are you ready for the “day after tomorrow”?

It is already clear that the transition to online communication – in not only business, advertising, and marketing, but in personal life, education, procurement, medical and various other areas also – will gain tremendous acceleration. Not in all countries in the same way and at the same speed, of course, but with much smaller differences than before, I believe. I also hope that the experience of empathy from the corona era will mean the possibility of a more open and inclusive society, and when it comes to our industry, the possibility of much more humane and emotional creativity.

More humane and emotional creativity? What does it mean?

Our motto, to work so that it is good for business, for people and the planet, will gain in force and conviction. That is why we should prove we mean it. I invite you to unleash your creativity, get out of all the mental boxes and make the greatest creative contribution to our civilization, the clients’ campaigns and social ideas for society and the planet as a whole. Creativity is our strength and our tools. The marketing companies which have been able to quickly and efficiently change their organization model, show empathy in everything they do, advise clients in an honest, neutral and knowledgeable way, and accept that the social impact of brands will be their standfast in the future –will have a secured growth. I believe that we are such a company and that we have to show it in practice every day.