Financial security now means something very different to what it used to be. No longer defined as squirrelling away monthly savings, simply covering rent and utilities is seen by many as a luxury to covet. Mortgages? Pah - not worth thinking about. And dizzying interest rate rises mean homeownership isn’t what it once was, either.
According to Mintel’s latest report on Consumers and the Cost of Living, 42% of people surveyed have adopted far stricter shopping lists to ensure they can pay their electricity bill and put food on the table. Through no fault of their own, people across the country have been plunged into crisis mode by sky-high inflation that 55% of Brits believe will last for at least another year.
Simply put, in the current grand scheme of things, your brand is pretty low down in the order of consumer concerns.
That’s not a criticism of you or the work your team does. It’s just the nature of things. Few will argue that oat milk or recipe boxes are essential items in the current climate - and even fewer would suggest positioning them as such.
But this isn’t to say there’s a lack of opportunities for marketers.
Mintel’s research highlights a rise in value-driven purchases; increasingly savvy consumers are seeking products that provide long-term benefits, with 68% of shoppers, for example, saying they’re prepared to pay more for grocery items that last longer. Likewise, 43% of consumers say it is worth paying more to support local businesses.
Being open to paying more for anything at the moment may surprise some, but it makes sense if you think about it. One pricier purchase will still work out cheaper in the long run than repeated outlays, and it’s through a long lens that most consumers are looking.
Moreover, 37% of Brits believe it’s more important for businesses to maintain environmental and ethical standards than cut prices. People are tired of bad news; they want to feel their decisions are having a positive impact in some way - and this extends to the businesses they shop with. They want to see their money going further.
These are valuable insights for marketers. Perception is everything in branding; while the slashing of prices may seem like a reasonable response when tackling a shrunken consumer market, the message it sends out is a negative one. It’s a panic move suggesting little value in the product being marketed.
Instead, the current crisis is an opportunity for your brand to reassess what it actually is that makes your product valuable. What needs is it addressing? Why is it an effective solution to a problem that matters to people right now? How do they feed into a greater good?
And once you’re confident about these qualities, make them the centre-piece of your marketing material. Establish them as the protagonists in a story told empathetically in a way that consumers can identify with. Do your dog biscuits have particular health benefits? Get some of your existing customers to share their experiences.
Loyalty schemes, bonus gifts and discount codes certainly have their place in your overall strategy, but they should serve as enjoyable side dishes, not the main course. They’re gestures of goodwill - not your main selling points.
Contextual relevance is also key. Research conducted by Nielsen found that ads served in an environment broadly aligned with the brand or product boosted consumer interest by 32% compared to those that targeted demographics.
So, whether it’s securing a spot for your novelty door mats in Location Location Location, or purchasing a full-page take-over of a fashion trends feature for your online hat marketplace, developing an association with quality content can do wonders for your marketing. Talk to your media agency about the many opportunities available.
Crucially, economic uncertainty also tends to make the cost of media cheaper. The current crisis is no different, with research by Les Binet on marketing in a post-Covid economy showing that TV airtime is currently at its lowest compared to consumer spending levels since records began in 1965.
But above all, it’s important to remember that you, like the people you want to engage with, are human. We’re all dealing with the pressures imposed on us by the current economic challenges, which demand us to be sensitive to what others are experiencing.
Those who try to exploit the situation will be the talk of Twitter before they’re even aware there’s been a backlash.