Monday, September 21, 2009

Is Marketing Going Back to the Basics?

By Sabera Kapasi-Photographer

The recent months have seen changes in marketing practices that we have all been reading about. The economic situation seems to be driving a huge change in the way people are consuming brands and products. People are re-evaluating their purchases and are trying to garner higher value for every dollar spent. National brands are changing long-used tactics to appeal to a discerning customer. It may seem as though a new era in marketing is emerging.

What, in my opinion, is occurring in some cases, is that marketing going ‘back to the basics.’ A few things that lead me to believe so:

1. Higher sales of private label brands - Back in the day, grocers packaged loose goods and branded them with their store label, and people paid for the convenience and value this practice offered. Retailers now are cashing in on the mood, offering prices that are 25% - 50% lesser than name brands. Consumers are lapping up store brands and benefiting from better value for their buck.

2. Localization of services and community building – Historically, neighborhood bars and bakeries were trusted sources of daily events and gave people a sense of community. Amid falling sales and rising costs, Starbucks is cashing in on this very sentiment, and last month launched a pilot store in Seattle that will sell drinks without the Starbucks logo, feature live music and even serve alcohol. The name of the store is a street name, aimed to position itself as a neighborhood store.

3. Credit strapped retailers and manufacturers cutting back on brand and product variety – Long gone are the days when it was a simple task for people to pick a box of cereal at the grocery store. In light of the crisis, brands are finding financial merit in stocking fewer brands and cleaning up the clutter, all to the advantage of a budget conscious customer.

4. Customer Service taking a new meaning – It was as easy as walking down to your local grocer to talk about a grievance or a complaint before it became necessary to navigate through a maze of customer service representatives to get yourself heard. Technology has duplicated the former, via powerful tools such as Twitter. We’re all seeing how brands like Comcast and Zappos are using social media to fortify their brand, enhance the customer experience and understand their audience, all in real time.

It appears that in most of these cases, the behavior is a reaction to effects of the recession. Brands are getting back to personalized, relatable and compact service formats in a quest to clamp down on falling consumer spending and brand loyalty. If this is what it is then- a tactic to keep their heads above water- is it really going back to the basics? Will these practices revert back to the ones that worked in a better economy? Or will smaller brands emulate the actions of these large ones to change the marketing landscape for a new era of ‘going back to the basics?’ What do you think?

Sabera Kapasi-Photographer is a Marketing Communications professional with diverse experience in Marketing Analysis & Advertising Campaign management. She can be found on LinkedIn and on Twitter: @sabera

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Rahul Sinha said...

Nice read. However, I think this won't last too long.
Consumers will always put their time to best use to enhance their wealth. At times like this, like many corporations, consumers find cost cutting at the best way to conserve wealth and therefore are putting in their time and effort in identifying and consuming the 'right offers'. Once they find that their time can be deployed profitably in earning greater wealth, they would once again start choosing options that can make their search easier, purchase decision quicker and consumption experience guaranteed.

Marketers, or the good one at that, would therefore have to be in line with the consumer behaviour trend always and must position their enterprise and offering accordingly. In few months therefore, or a few years, you would find the cycle turn and would wonder whether marketing was once more shifting. Actually, it's the consumer, who shifts always, searching for the best usage of his only resource - time. To understand this better we can check out the change of behaviour as one moves from a small town (read under developed economy) to a big town (read developed economy) and recaliberates his usage of time to ensure most profitable use.

Selina said...

Interesting, we had wild years of corporations in Ivy towers, not listening to their customers. With the advancement of technology, the consumer has a voice and a platform to talk about their goods and services. I believe the fact that they are now "listening" by monitoring the conversations online, can only improve services.

Local is key and you hit on something I hear over and over again. Products & services will come to us, in the not-so distant future; shaped by our own social marketing choices. This web video touches on some of these very concepts:

Sabera said...

Thanks for Reading!

@Rahul - I love your point about the fact that it is, at the end of the day, the consumer who shifts his preferences to best make use of his / her resources. It is ultimately, the consumer that has the power to shift marketing trends. I guess we just need to wait and watch if we'll really go back to our old consumption patterns when the economy gets better.

@ Selina - your point drives home the fact that consumers have even more control over the way products and services are presented to them. Thanks for sharing the video! It was a great watch.

Gauri Juneja said...

dude, interesting read. to me it looks like a kind of cyclical thing which is completely associated with economic down/upturns. in living memory, there have been instances when name brands became too big for their own good and ended up spawning a whole subversive movement. and then again the subversion gradually gets relegated to the left leaners as public memory of corporate greed fades and we fall in love with shiny things all over again. and time marches on. or something :)

p.s. loved seeing your picture on top :)

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