The consumer’s view

Our ‘man on the inside’ provides a view from the top of the marketing tree

I took a couple of days off last week to enjoy the half-term break with my family. We marketers spend a lot of time and money searching for consumer insights, yet I always find some of the most valuable ones are gathered when I spend time being a regular consumer.

Here is my half-term report.

Consumers may well be tightening their belts, but those with schoolaged kids have little choice but to spend during half term. When I was at school, half term lasted a week; nowadays it appears that for many schools it extends to two.

This presents a perfect opportunity for families to escape overseas in a way they may not have deemed possible in the past. And for those staying in the UK, day trips and other activities to keep the kids busy were the rule, helped by the Indian Summer.

“Consumers may be tightening their belts, but parents have little choice but to spend”

The postal strike introduced the necessity of booking travel and event tickets online. I suspect this will have been the first time that many parents have used e-ticketing. My guess is that they will have enjoyed the experiment and will never return to traditional bookings.

The trade union leadership doesn’t seem too worried about the estimated backlog of 50 million items stuck in the postal system, but it should be more worried about the long-term consequences. The postal strike is the perfect excuse for people to try out Royal Mail’s competitors, most of whom do not require a postage stamp.

As a commuter, I always looked forward to school holidays because my journey was so much more comfortable as the usual rush-hour crowd took time off. Yet last week, travelling to my nearest city not as a commuter but as a half-term father, I battled a rush hour far more stressful than anything I have encountered before. During half term, peak-time travel becomes off-peak and off-peak becomes the new rush hour, only it lasts longer, is noisier and is rammed full of ten-yearold commuters who are excited to be there.

They may not be wearing suits, but a lot of them bring a younger colleague in a pram, a staggering number carry an iPhone and they all read the freesheets as they cost nothing. So for any marketers stuck in an insight workshop last week, I recommend ditching your post-it notes for a change and spending some quality time out in the real world.

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