Navigating a cost of living crisis for anyone is no mean feat. But for brands, the pressure is on – so what can they do?
Speaking at Marketing Week’s Festival of Marketing today (6 October), Premier Foods CMO Yilmaz Erceyes laid out what brands should be doing during times of economic uncertainty.
One of the main things marketers can do to help consumers through difficult periods is to listen, he said. “When you actually listen to shoppers and look at their world, yes the market is tough, but there are pockets of opportunity.”
“Never let a good crisis go to waste,” he added. For a company like Premier Foods, with home cooking likely to increase for consumers, there are areas it can turn to its advantage. This is similar to what was seen during the 2008 recession, he said, although “nowhere near what we are going through right now with inflation”.
He emphasised the different perspectives pouring into the idea of “premium”, because while a company’s “premium” brand might be its most expensive, for consumers it’s actually “much better value” compared to what they’d pay in a restaurant setting, for example.
Premier Foods bought spice brand The Spice Tailor in July this year, and Erceyes called it the company’s “fastest growing” brand, despite it statistically being its most expensive.
He called this “unintuitive”, adding: “Don’t assume what you know is true,”, advising marketers to remember their perception of their products can be vastly different to the consumer’s, especially in a cost of living crisis.
“Logic would have told you in a recessionary environment” that premium would have fallen, he added. But, “it’s not all uniform”.
“There are really interesting pockets of growth opportunities, and as marketers that’s the bit we try and get our heads around: how can we serve our consumers and better understand them?”
Carol McNaughton Nicholls, associate partner at insight and strategy consultancy BritainThinks, and also on the panel, shared a similar sentiment. “As a marketer it’s really important to keep seeing consumers as people,” she said, adding it’s the “little moments that matter to them”.
She added that while trusted brands in a cost of living crisis are the good value brands, it “also depends on the individual”.
“It’s not about being the cheapest, it’s not about the race to the bottom,” she said. “What consumers really need is that point of comfort.”
Aldi promises to maintain low prices despite profit slumpThe way brands communicate their efforts to support consumers through the cost of living crisis, and what they actually do, is crucial, she said. It’s about “helping implicitly through your oversight” rather than publishing, say, a “phoney video” saying “we’re on your side”.
“Supporting them in an inclusive way, to help your value proposition and communications I think will help in the short term for brands,” she added. In the long term this will create a better relationship.
Erceyes added that Premier Foods feels a “responsibility” to help consumers. “For me, the key thing for marketers now is we’re going to be closer than ever to the consumers. We always want to be close, but in these times of big changes and big shifts, consumers re-evaluate their choices and habits, and there are different needs that emerge.”
He added that it’s “really easy to get depressed” and think all your consumers are “going to Aldi” or “not buying” your category, but, looking at the Premier Foods portfolio, there are “opportunities everywhere”.