Every commercial consumer society is a roller coaster economy. There are times when the going is good and there are times when the going is bad, if not terrible.
There are times when the economy is clocking double-digit growth rates. There are times when interest rates are on a downward spree. When consumer sentiment is gung-ho and up. When buying more and more is a passion. This is a marketer’s delight. Never mind what you market—be it panty-hose or premium sedans.
And then there are tough times—months and years when rising levels of inflation catch up on the halcyon days. These are days when high costs and rising interest rates discourage buys. These are also times when consumers postpone purchases, spurring on recession.
The marketer is typically sitting on a hot tin roof. She needs to decide either way to ensure that her sales are not dented. What does she do?
There are a menu of options, really. What must the marketer do? Discount her product to the trade to ensure higher stocking and, therefore, better displays? Offer discounts to the consumer to create that much needed sale? Offer more of the product on offer to ensure that home-stocking goes up? Cut costs at the production end? Cut costs at the advertising and promotion expenditure level? Or cut out advertising altogether? The menu is complex and the decisions, tough. And no decision is really a solution on its own.
I do believe marketers need to think long-term when faced with pressures such as these.My mantra is clear. Do not discount your product at all. Take the temporary hit in volume but avoid for sure the long-term hit on your brand image. Your brand image has been cobbled together over years of hard work. Don’t fritter it away at the doorstep of temporary recession.
Recession is essentially a postponement of purchase, waiting for better times to dawn. Better times will dawn for sure, as you live in a roller-coaster economy. Avoid taking the soft option of discounting—the softest bullet to bite.
Offer, instead, a bit more of your product to the consumer. Offer that 200gm more of tea on his 500gm buy. Offer that bundled DVD offer with that television set. Make it look like a combo offer. Avoid looking like an overt discount. Consumers like added value. Combo offers live longer in the consumer home than the memory of your short-term Rs5 discount on that pack of tea you sold in a hurry.
Should a marketer cut on her advertising spends?
Don’t! Difficult times come and go. Difficult times are the ones in which your product needs to be seen on the television set for sure. Remember, there is pressure on your brand at the level of the trade-channels that handle you. You definitely need to support the channel. The crutch of advertising needs to remain, but leverage it differently.
Your consumer needs positive strokes in an economy that is tanking. Your advertising creatives must be shaped sensitively to give out those positive strokes on your brand and its consumption.
I do believe you need to have special sets of creatives that talk a different tone and tenor when the consumer’s chips are down in the market. Emotive advertising can help here a lot. Try it.
One final thing to do. Reach out to the consumer one-on-one. Give him more service. Give him more product. Give him emotive advertising that is time-relevant, rather than time-insensitive.
When there is dented consumer demand, remember, there is a dented consumer psyche behind it. Take care of that dented consumer psyche with sensitivity, and you will ride out this trough as well.
The author is CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.