Use brand power to help consumers in tough times

Lucy Handley

The Government reforms and cuts that started to take effect this week will make for grim reading for some: welfare benefits and tax credits, for example, will rise by only 1 per cent a year from next Monday instead of 2.2 per cent, in line with inflation.

Meanwhile, the so-called ‘bedroom tax’ means those living in social housing (about 660,000 people) who are claiming unemployment benefits and have a spare bedroom will lose 14 per cent of their housing benefit. And for those not on benefits and earning a decent salary the higher tax-rate threshold has gone down from £34,370 to £32,000.

How does this relate to businesses and brands? Well, it’s a case of marketers putting themselves in the shoes of consumers. Many brand leaders earn far above the average wage of £26,500 – for marketing managers the mean is £37,500 and for marketing directors it is more than £75,000, according to the Marketing Week/Ball & Hoolahan salary survey published in January.

So it is likely that many of the people buying the brands you make or services you provide are significantly worse off than you are. Yes, this means marketers have to work harder than ever to get people to choose their brand, but they should also consider other ways to make their products or services seem more favourable, while helping people out.

Asda is working with Birmingham Council in a deal that gives some of the poorest people in the city access to pre-paid cards that can be spent in stores. According to the council, it is the only supermarket willing to do this in Britain’s second city. While there are obvious benefits to Asda in that it gets people through its doors who will arguably spend more, clearly not all retailers are buying into the concept.

Meanwhile, Google.org not only pledges money to those in need but also sets up valuable services, for example it created a map showing evacuation plans and emergency shelters in New York before Hurricane Sandy hit last October. This shows the kind of helpful thinking that brands could do more of.

Plenty of companies pledge money to support good causes and this is to be applauded, but setting up a service to help people could be the way forward.

Tough times need great leaders and this year’s Marketing Week Engage Awards recognise that with a Senior Marketer of the Year category. Take a look at the shortlist and cast your vote here.

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