Saturday, December 6, 2008

Let's get sensible about marketing communications in Australia in 2009

I’ve been speaking to quite a few marketing directors recently. Some are new to their roles and some are old hands who have worked through several recessions before. Their brands range from snack food to finance. The consensus in two words is DON’T PANIC.

It only FEELS bad. Did you know that the average Australian is $700 better off than they were six months ago? That’s the same as an $8400, tax free, annual pay increase!

Petrol prices are dropping and mortgage rates are heading towards levels not seen since 1964. Do you remember 1964? I don’t.

But consumers FEEL anxious. Their super is worth half what it was a year ago. They are bombarded with doom and gloom news coverage from the US. And now there is the new possibility of losing their job.

So it’s not all bad. But consumers, like ‘the market’, hate uncertainty. The old cliché, ‘Perception is reality’ is truer than ever.

Smart marketers are adjusting their communications accordingly.

One example is the finance industry. A year ago the message was all, ‘Buy it on your credit card, you deserve it.’ Now the message is ‘Buy it on your charge card, that’s the sensible thing to do.’ Notice the message is still encouraging purchase. It’s just couched in a different way: the sensible way.

Similarly Holden started to run the line, ‘Times are tough. Holden is tougher.’ GM Holden recognised the economic climate but then perhaps predictably talked about themselves instead of their consumer. It was later changed to the slightly clunky, ‘Times are tough but Australians and Holden are tougher.’

Holden is now positioned as the sensible choice. A year ago every vehicle from small hatch to station wagon was a sports car.

Many FMCG brands are talking ‘value’. Small indulgences such as chips and chocolates can be justified if they are of good quality. Food, household and personal care brands are all about quality for less. Look out for more advertising that balances a slightly higher cost with, in the case of laundry detergent, more washes per pack.

Australian consumers still have money. They just need to be reassured that they are not wasting it.

Here’s the three step plan to marketing communications in slow economic times:

1. Don’t panic

2. Don’t do nothing.

3. Communicate quality+value, and sensible purchasing decisions.

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