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Q&A: How Covid-19 has changed the way Shell & Nedbank speak to youth

Brands have had to readjust their business approach to accommodate the fast-changing social and economic landscape

Young people are a major concern as brands find new ways of working to curb unemployment and seek new opportunities.
Young people are a major concern as brands find new ways of working to curb unemployment and seek new opportunities.
Image: Supplied/HDI

In addition to the serious implications on people's health and health care services, Covid-19 is having a significant impact on SA businesses and the economy. 

The crisis caused by the pandemic has created an incredibly difficult business climate. Businesses are being presented with many new challenges during lockdown with many non-essential businesses having to face a temporary close. Consumer behaviour has also been forced to immediately change on a huge scale. Most people have been limited in performing their usual routines such as going to the gym, going to the office, having coffee with friends or lunch meetings. Concerns about the availability of goods have encouraged panic buying of items in bulk. 

The pandemic has also encouraged businesses to change or rethink their strategies and marketing plans to suit the “new ways of working”. Young people though, are also a major concern, as brands find new ways of working to curb unemployment and seek new opportunities.

HDI Youth Consultancy and Sunday Times Gen Next sat with Domnick Nkhatu, fuels, brand and retail forecourt lead at Shell SA Downstream, and Bridget Nkandu, executive of youth segment at Nedbank, to understand the impact of Covid-19 on their respective businesses and how this has affected the way they communicate and still create opportunities for the youth in SA.

How has the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown affected your business?

SHELL: Just as the pandemic continues to affect the entire globe, it also effects all our business operations. We have to find even safer and more sustainable solutions to support our front line staff who may be exposed to risks. The lockdown has halted movement, meaning low demand for our products. Regardless, we support the move by our government and all local and global authorities to stay safe at home until the situation is conducive to resuming regular activities. 

NEDBANK: Nedbank adopted a “digital first, first in digital” approach as part of its 2020 vision, which has been instrumental in enabling the bank to navigate the current times. The “Unlocked.Me” digital platform, a first of its kind in SA allows the bank to provide a tailored value proposition for the youth that transcends zero-fee banking. Young people have access to lifestyle deals, for example, up to 50% off laptops, and access to deals on the latest fashion and technology. 

How has it affected your 2020 marketing plan — youth marketing in particular?

SHELL: With the rapid and unexpected change in the social and economic landscape, we had to be agile and shift our plans from pure marketing to social listening and engagement. In a short space of time we have taken our young audiences on a journey that is aligned to the broader social agenda on safety. 

NEDBANK: We’ve adjusted our approach to align with the changing consumer mindset and needs in a Covid-19 and lockdown situation. The focus has been on providing solutions such as Unlocked.Me and Nedbank4Me among others that are relevant to clients in the current context. Our strategy focuses on effective digital communication that is hyper-targeted to ensure relevance for our existing and future clients.  

Did your brand have any means of communication with young people? 

SHELL: The Shell brand caters for different segments across all demographics. The youth is, however, the pulse that keeps us going. There are numerous ways in which we strive to reach this audience. This includes: formulating campaigns that catch their attention; structuring our product offers in a way that appeals to this audience; formatting our stores to cater for their needs; selecting media platforms that make engagement easier; and constantly adapting to the rapid changes within this environment. We also take pride in offering initiatives that are aimed at youth development, including assisting with maths and science education at high schools, among others.

Almost 70% of our marketing investment is mainly focused towards SA youth engagement through various communication platforms.

NEDBANK: We have been leveraging our key digital platforms such as our highly rated NedbankMoney App and the “Unlocked.Me” platform. We also understand that a majority of the youth are in need of jobs — being job ready and data is the current currency for this market. Through our partners MoveUp and GradesMatch, we ran campaigns aimed at providing access to CV creation, job posts and to the current Life Orientation curriculum to enable them to match their current educational performance to their future prospects. 

From a Nedbank4Me perspective, we’ve collaborated with the Walt Disney Company Africa and the Disney XD series DuckTales in the creation of a unique financial literacy programme aimed at children called Penny Power. It aims to educate children on money management. 

Will this pandemic and lockdown change your youth proposition as a brand or how you communicate with the youth?

SHELL: Our SA youth always seek new ways to connect. As a brand we will always remain responsive  to the changing needs of our youth and the entire society.  

NEDBANK: We focus on ensuring that we effectively understand and address our clients’ needs and pain points. This said, the world is changing, and with that so will our clients’ needs. As a brand, we will need to adapt to that change to ensure that we are even more client-centric by offering solutions that improve their lives beyond our banking offerings. We’ll focus on providing access to comprehensive online courses and tools to better prepare them to become active economic participants in a changing world. From a communication standpoint, a digital-first approach is key. However, we also need to consider how we communicate to those with limited access to broadband to create opportunities for them to thrive in an ever-changing world. 

Does your purpose still stand as a brand, or how has it changed?

SHELL: Our core purpose as a business is “Making life’s journeys better every day” by enriching today and creating a more sustainable tomorrow. We want to reassure all our customers, more especially the youth, to know that on their journey, no matter how long or short, we are their trusted partner. 

NEDBANK: Our purpose remains intact as this is at the heart of what we as a brand are about — being money experts who do good. The focus will be on how we use our expertise to better serve the needs of our youth market to help them navigate their current and future challenges.

Brands have had to readjust their approach to business to accommodate the rapid and unexpected change in the social and economic landscape. The consumer mindset and behaviour is changing, along with the new ways of working. Even through the change, brands are still committed to serving their customers first and appealing to their needs. This includes the ever-changing youth market.

Partners of the Sunday Times Gen Next Conference, Interactive Showcase and Awards ceremony — that are all scheduled to take place in Sandton on August 21 2020 — include headline partners Gautrain Management Agency and Shell, corporate partners Mercedes-Benz and Bounce, and media partner Cliff Central. 

For more information on the Sunday Times Gen Next Awards, click here.

For information on sponsorship and activation opportunities at the 2020 Sunday Times Gen Next Awards e-mail Cortney Hoyland at hoylandc@arena.africa. 

This article was paid for by HDI Youth Consultancy.