It's tempting to give in to the knee-jerk reaction and start shifting advertising to coupons and marking down prices or, worse, freezing the marketing budget entirely. But instead of focusing on cost and pricing, we should turn our attention to better understanding how this major change point is affecting consumers. We need to determine how they are adapting, how their behavior is changing and how we can help shape this behavioral shift.
1. OBSERVE BEHAVIOR
Consumers are notoriously bad at predicting or remembering theirbehavior, so don't rely on what they say in focus groups or one-on-oneinterviews. Instead, watch what they do. Last year, people were readyto trade in their SUVs for hybrids at the thought of $3-per-gallon gas. Today, those same SUVs are swerving across three lanes of traffic for the opportunity to fill up for gas that cheap.
2. UNDERSTAND THE NEW COMPETITIVE SET
Observe consumer behavior outside of your traditionally defined category or region. A behavior change in some unrelated category or in another country could be affecting your brand.
3. UNCOVER THE EMOTIONS BEHIND THE BEHAVIORS
Determine how your unique collection of functional and emotional benefits can best be leveraged to capitalize on this new behavior or used to create a different behavior.
Good advertising during times of (relative) scarcity shouldn't look much different than that during periods of abundance. Where the change will be most dramatic is with advertisers that were using cheap ploys and gimmicks to catch viewer attention. Unless the ploy is for dramatically reduced pricing or something else that will have a direct effect on the viewer's wallet, it's unlikely to evoke the same kind of response as it might have during better economic times. Thus, we're uncertain that Spahr's suggestion to uncover the emotions behind behaviors is particularly applicable at this point. As times get tough, emotion has less and less power to influence decisions that must be made rationally.