By Jamie Coomber, Head of Innovation and Engagement at Profero
So, the headlines have finally reported what we all already knew. As of today, twenty-third January, we are officially in a recession. Given the amount of media coverage devoted to the financial crisis, it is no great act of foresight to predict that 2009 will prove a challenging year for many companies across a whole range of sectors and that, as a result a lot of `dead wood’ (meant in the nicest way, of course) will be removed from the equation.
In order to survive the next twelve to twenty-four months brands must, more than ever before, put themselves in their customers’ shoes and enter into a dialogue that is appropriate to this economic climate.
Of course, I’m stating the obvious, but the obvious appears to be have passed many brands by. To date it feels like too many I have encountered are afraid to discuss the serious issues that we are all facing directly with the consumer (with the possible exception of a recent campaign from Hyundai in the US announcing customers can return their car within the year if they lose their job).
It seems they are most are making very little effort to demonstrate that they understand their audience’s challenges at this time and to empathise with decisions that we face.
In tough times we want to feel, or indeed know, that brands, and especially those vying to win our loyalty in the more cluttered sectors such as food and drink, fashion, white goods and so on, truly value and empathise with us.
So this principle of “understanding” must be one that companies push to the fore in 2009 if they want to emerge form this crisis unscathed. If a client were to approach me now with a higher priced product to market, and they genuinely felt that their brand was enough to convince their audience to buy it, I would have to reach for the nearest thing to put me out of my misery.
Brands today must take into consideration issues that they may previously have wanted to distance themselves from. People are a lot smarter than they are sometimes given credit for by marketers, and especially so when watching the purse strings, and they will make up their own mind if they want to buy a product or not. So, papering over the cracks with high production values in order to push a product is no longer an option.
Over-kill, with beautiful artistic shots of products we may want but simply cannot consider at this time, will be damaging to most brands in the long run as we will remember, once the economy plateaus, those that failed to demonstrate any level of awareness.
If you have a high-end product to sell you can still survive in the coming market but you must find other messages to reassure people why your product is a wise, safe or reasonable purchase decision.
Of course, it is easy to understand why some companies prefer to bury their heads in the sand (Is Madonna, for a reputed $10m, going to shift more Louis Vuitton in this climate?), but in order to survive they need to see this as an opportunity to develop positive brand associations that it will not be forgotten when the economy turns upwards once again.
The question the consumer needs to ask is, ultimately, do we want to spend our money with a brand that shows they understand the market, and the consumer place in that market by talking to them in realistic and appropriate tones, or one who encourages increased debt and prolonged financial flagellation by creating a marketing vacuum between our wants and our needs?
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