Daniel Todaro, managing director at creative customer experience marketing agency Gekko, advises readers on what is driving consumers during these difficult times and how brands might best react.
We are living in an era of significant disruption, requiring an updated approach to brand communication in sync with our times. The question is do brands need to redefine their raison d’etre to stay relevant to appeal to very changed consumers?
A new paradigm
The pandemic’s cultural legacy has been a shift to a life where many of us are at home more and need products and services that cater to a new stay at home existence. Meanwhile, the aftershocks of the pandemic have caused huge inflationary pressures impacting many. This has created a new economic reality where affordability trumps desirability.
In a recent research study we carried out with YouGov we interviewed a cross section of consumers throughout the country to understand what is now driving purchasing behaviour. We uncovered five key motivating factors driving purchasing behaviour at this time. Brands need to respond to these if they want to remain front of mind for modern consumers.
1) Value for money
In a world of soaring costs and stagnant wages, consumers revealed that one of their key reasons for making a considered purchase was the value for money a product offered. Brands should react by smartly promoting the long-term savings they can offer.
For example, AMDEA, the body representing the white goods industry in the UK, did some research in relation to the Eco buttons on washing machines and dishwashers. They revealed it was saving consumers on average £90 a year. They now really highlight this facet to drive consumers in store to purchase their members’ products.
2) Essential trumps desirable
Positioning your brand and products as ‘essential’ items in the psyche of your target audience is a second key factor, also borne out by our research. The days of assuming there is an implied need for your brand are no longer present.
Disposable income in all households, even middle earners, is becoming scarcer. The ONS has estimated the biggest fall in living standards in 2022/23 since records began. Consumers may want your product, but unless it’s absolutely essential and integral to their life, they are not going to buy it. So why is this going to be a product they can’t live without?
As an extension to being essential, people will need to feel that the item that they are buying is built to last for more than the lifespan of your average reality star. Low down on our list of drivers in today’s climate are more ephemeral qualities like perceived ‘brand value’.
Rather than offering a lifestyle associated with a brand, a brand should focus on the quality of their products. This should be the starting place for a conversation about a brand and how it will last for someone whose budget is going to be squeezed for some time.
The longer something lasts, of course the more sustainable it is, and this is a huge driver for younger generations in particular. Far from moving away from this priority at a cash strapped time, consumers are in fact doubling down. Brands should be wary of greenwashing and understanding this generation will do their research about the full life cycle of a product.
Finally, innovation was identified as the fifth key driver of consumer purchasing behaviour in the current climate. This is why Google has attracted new customers with both the value of their Pixel phone but also its innovative Magic Eraser functionality.
Indeed, innovation plus value has also been a key driver of the demand for air fryers. According to research by price comparison website PriceRunner, demand has soared by 3,000 per cent since 2021. The money that can be saved through cooking at a time of rising energy costs is significant and of course energy efficient.
The air fryer also answers several other current consumer need states. We, post-Covid, are eating at home more and it is a way of getting your family, your friends and your kids involved. It is also healthier.
It is crucial that brands adapt to remain relevant. For some this will require a radical step change. As author Mandy Hale put it: “Change is painful, but nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you don’t belong.”