In this time of near double-digit unemployment, rampant underemployment, sky-rocketing home foreclosures and other adverse economic factors, the emergence of the tightfisted consumer was totally predictable. What was spawned from necessity does not appear to be a short-term strategy. Rather, it is becoming a way of life for a majority of Americans.
Harris Interactive reports that American consumers continue to hold the line on spending, with 63% purchasing more generic (private label) branded products. This behavior is consistent across generations.
A recent study from Decitica, “Marketing to the Post-Recession Consumers” posits that consumer spending patterns have been profoundly altered by the current recession and we are now entering a period of “new normal.” Decitica has identified four distinct consumer segments – Steadfast Frugalists, Involuntary Penny-Pinchers, Pragmatic Spenders, and Apathetic Materialists.
While consumers’ commitment and focus on finding the lowest prices vary, it’s clear that price-related value is no longer a competitive advantage. Rather, it has become an expected attribute for many purchasers.
The traditional retail “fix” of offering discounts is no longer (or is fast becoming) like email SPAM. In other words, buyers are applying their own mental filters to these offers, going for the lowest price point across many product categories. But, this approach has resulted in store brands in some categories becoming category leaders – suggesting that lower pricing as a strategy is a form of value that brand marketers cannot sustain.
Given these conditions, it is clear that the days of price discounts as the sole expression of value are over.
As consumers navigate the new economic world order, more than ever, they want to feel they are getting the best value for their money. Marketers will need to be more inventive in their offers and create products as well as marketing messaging that imbue brands with discernible value. So the question is this:
In what ways might marketers re-create brand value in today’s environment?
It begins with looking at value through an entirely new lens.
A New View of Value
In recent years, companies have begun to enhance brand value with what might be described as product-driven, functional value strategies.
Some brands, many in the Procter & Gamble stable, are combining well-recognized attributes of premium brands such as Dawn Hand Renewal with Olay Beauty, Mr. Clean with Febreze Freshness, Tide with a Touch of Downy to offer consumers an assurance of product performance and desirable attributes. This brand-combining strategy has enabled P&G to maintain its premium priced edge.
In the current new campaign for 1800 Tequila, the commercial’s protagonist points to the functionality of the cap as a point-of-difference with Patron.
Clearly, if there are product elements that can be leveraged as these examples demonstrate, marketers should naturally capitalize on these product advantages. But, there is also a consumer-driven factor that is likely to strengthen this trend towards a new value paradigm and we believe this is an attitude of responsibility. Specifically, people are becoming more responsible when it comes to the ‘stuff’ they acquire.
When you layer on facts like declining disposable income or postponing retirement out of financial necessity, it is inevitable that the purchase decision process will be more conscious, even introspective as buyers weigh their choices. And, the factors weighed are likely to reflect factors that might not have considered in the past. With these shifting attitudes, we believe there are new value areas to be mined—areas that people will resonate to more deeply—a higher order level of value.
As we look to redefine value in this new era, it is important to look at areas that are likely to have an enduring impact on consumers’ purchase decision process. We believe these reflect what used to be incidental benefits but now are more at the forefront that ever before. By tapping into these avenues of opportunity, brand perceptions will be enhanced and companies will have a chance to make a new impression in the marketplace.
In subsequent posts, we will feature the New Value opportunities. Stay tuned to our first discussion – the Green Value opportunity.