All posts from: December 2011
The outlook for 2012 is not exactly optimistic, so I’ve dusted off my crystal ball to try and see what the next twelve months holds for brands, marketers and consumers. Continued economic trouble will see consumers remain cautious in their spending. For people with little that will mean an everyday focus on best value, while for the better off it will be more thrift and localism.
Everyone will be looking for comfort or escape – as well as some sense of hope. I think people will become quite cynical and will wish for a greater sense of community and support but will look after number one – this will translate into even further decreasing brand loyalty and continued “forced experimentation” to get the most from your cash.
Supermarkets will maintain their push to appear on the side of the consumer, with the public either sticking with the store closest to them – because they can’t to afford to drive to a cheaper one – or favouring the more budget supermarkets if they are within close proximity. We anticipate a return to make it yourself food and there may be a push to support local shops in light of the Portas Report, provided the price differential isn’t too great.
As times get tougher, there may be a greater focus from brands on helping consumers improve their mental wellbeing as part of a healthy lifestyle. Culturally we will continue to be increasingly mobile, less patient and more stressed.
Brands will need to stay close to their customers to see where they are lapsing in their purchases. It may be a time for brands to revisit fundamental questions about their relationship with consumers in an effort to consolidate existing customers but more importantly build a new base as well.
Research into why buyers buy, why people stay loyal or move away from certain brands during periods of austerity, and why some people have never bought a particular brand will provide a level of consumer understanding that could inform post-recession planning now.
In the marketing and research sectors we anticipate pressure to drive more value from every project; engaging consumers to get better data and therefore understanding, which ultimately enables us to inspire marketing teams with the ‘voice of the consumer’ to make better, more successful products. In a recession, price becomes a dominating factor, leading to further heavy promotions. Brands, though, can be better served understanding the more subtle drivers of purchase to be more profitable, as well as the obvious BOGGING-OFF that we know and love.
Meanwhile, we will see an outpouring of ‘Britishness’ coinciding with the Olympics and I think brands will interpret this in lots of different ways; from the reactionary (Rule Britannia nostalgic values), through to the inclusive (modern multi-cultural Britain) and the purely aesthetic (the Union Jack everywhere). Link that with our floating off into the Atlantic away from the EU if you will, but the Brit’s love affair with exotic products, tastes and new brand experiences will continue.
A qualitative research study that we will publish this week shows how Britons plan to reject traditional consumption and spend Christmas reconnecting with the things and people that matter most to them. The study paints an emotional picture of a traditional Christmas as respondents talk about looking forward to “just spending time” with those closest to them.
Consumers seem less concerned with magic and spontaneity, more with practicality and planning. There is more emphasis this year on planning and buying early as a way of budgeting at a time when thrift has become more than merely a lifestyle choice. Christmas is obviously about enjoyment and escape, and a certain degree of excess is traditional – but, in keeping with the subdued times, our respondents have said that a sense of modesty and restraint is the order of the season.
And in response to the prevailing sense of economic gloom, consumers appear to be responding best to brands that are using their advertising and marketing activity to capture the traditional spirit of Christmas and tapping in to the power and comfort of ritual.
In terms of brand advertising, the spot that was cited most often by our respondents was Coca-Cola’s “Holidays are Coming” ad, featuring a convoy of illuminated Coca-Cola trucks snaking through wintery hills on their way to town. This ad was spontaneously discussed as a signifier of Christmas, and welcomed as enthusiastically as the families in the advertisement welcome the Coca Cola truck.
The John Lewis spot – a playful inversion of the classic ritual of waiting for Christmas Day – has tapped most particularly into our desire for a return to a traditional sense of giving. Even the more ambiguously received M&S advert captures a hope of a future where “dreams come true”.
Five themes emerge from the study which have significance beyond Christmas, long after the decorations have been put away. These are:
- a profound need for hope;
- a sense of post-materialism;
- a focus on people and things closest to us;
- the comfort of ritual; and
- the idea of the rewards of practicality, planning and hard work
So what should brands take away from this seasonal analysis? The message from our respondents is quite clear. Articulate hope and a positive long-term vision as consumers are looking for an inspirational light at the end of the tunnel. Reflect the way that consumers have, in some ways, temporarily lost faith in materialism and focus on values rather than things. Focus on the local, facilitate family, be active in communities and, at very least, continue to overtly support the British economy with products created and built locally. Brands should continue to tap into rituals which offer familiarity, comfort and trust for consumers and create promotions which reward planning and effort, as well as “hard to ignore” deals.