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How marketers can form a people-first response during the cost-of-living crisis

By Helen Rose |

June 28, 2022 | 5 min read

Are we experiencing a cost-of-living crunch, or is it a crisis? Helen Rose, managing partner at The7stars, lays out how marketers should approach this situation.

With the backdrop of two pandemic years and the evolutionary impact on consumer behavior, it certainly feels like there’s an underlying attitude of tenacity for the changing times ahead.

All change

We’ve all seen the reports that call out changing behaviors, from the re-evaluation of entertainment and leisure subscription services to supermarket grocery brand switching. It’s very evident that many brands are already feeling the effects of the crunch on consumers’ budgets. Those in lower-income households will be the most disproportionately impacted by the cost-of-living crisis, but there are few consumer groups that will be totally immune from it.

Pound coin

Almost everyone will feel the squeeze during the cost-of-living crisis / Unsplash

In partnership with Kantar Media, The7stars recently conducted research to better understand the current landscape for British consumers. Aside from the obvious changes in consumer behaviors, we wanted to better understand what really matters to people.

People first

It’s a dangerous climate to make any accurate predictions. But one thing we can say with certainty is that with wider economic and political events continuing to evolve, the impact on British households is likely to stay for some time.

We have identified three themes of relevance for consumers and brands: resilience, integrity and purpose.

Resilience: Consumer sentiment had started to pick up post-pandemic, with many optimistic that 2022 would hold new opportunities ahead. However, for many, a new reality has dawned, and two in three Brits agree that in difficult circumstances they will keep calm and carry on. The short-lived optimism felt at the start of the year has given way to an overriding spirit of resilience.

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Integrity: Trust and transparency have similarly climbed up the agenda in terms of consumer expectations. This is evident in the 78% of consumers who agree brands must communicate honestly with their customers when it comes to pricing. Brand integrity and authenticity are more important than ever, with cautious consumers looking for confidence in their purchasing decisions.

Purpose: In times of need it’s no surprise that consumer mindsets often focus more on the inward world of ‘me’ versus ‘we.’ While community spirit and support are still important, there’s a shifting emphasis on what purpose means at an individual level, and importantly how this shows up in tangible benefits to consumers. 65% of British consumers agree they expect brands to understand their changing needs and circumstances in times of hardship.

Opportunity for brands

There’s a lot to be said about how one behaves in times of crisis. It’s all about choosing your response. Many brands and businesses themselves are facing financial challenges from the cost-of-living crisis.

Taking a people-first approach means that brands who put customers, and their own employees, at the heart of their strategies will fare best. Here are five takeaways for any brand to employ:

  1. Entertain: Don’t forget that in tough times consumers need light relief. The feel-good factor is also a proven route for improved ad recall and consumer journey conversion

  2. Support: Providing practical support can come in various forms. From easily-accessible information to timely promotions, these can be an easy win without significant cost to the business

  3. Closeness: Listen to what your consumers have to say. Keeping the customer close is key right now, and understanding what’s going on in their wider lives and how that impacts their budgeting and brand choices is essential

  4. Consistency: Brand equity can be won and lost in times of crisis. Pick your battle and own it. Consistency in communications will help to create stand-out and clarity for your consumers

  5. Honesty: Be true to your brand values and to your customers. The human lens has never been more welcomed by consumers who want to buy from brands that make them feel part of a like-minded community

The full white paper and further information on the research conducted in partnership between The7stars and Kantar can be downloaded here.

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