David Halter

Chief Strategy and Growth Officer, dentsu ANZ

How many marketers are thinking about their product or service in the context of the home budget?

As every second headline today seems to contain the words ‘inflation, cost of living or interest rates’ perhaps a key place to start as brand planning season kicks off for many, is remembering that the household budget is the bedrock for consumer brand success.

If a marketer can understand this, and be truly market orientated, the opportunities for growth, even in times of economic uncertainty, are there.

It’s no secret that the situation for many is tricky. Every dollar is a fight now.

The proportion of people who feel that they have money left over after meeting commitments is at its lowest point since 2005. This is lower than the 2009 GFC and lower than the bleakest times in the pandemic.

For many Australians, the reality is that electricity prices are up 16 per cent a year ago, the increase in interest repayments on owner-occupied mortgages increased by nearly $5 billion between March 2022 and December 2022.

For marketers, however, there are opportunities even within this doom and gloom, negative press cycle.

Great marketers are trained to separate their own thoughts and feelings from the actual insights from real consumers, and in times of economic uncertainty it is critical to remember this training. It is time to remind themselves, (and their agency partners), that they are not the customer. They are not the target market.

The key to success, through all stages of the economic cycle, is a marketer’s ability to be market-oriented at all times.

And right now, that means ensuring your product or service truly meets consumer needs to ensure that it remains a necessity, or one of remaining treats, in the household budget.

What we don’t want is to fall into the ‘on hold’ or ‘luxury’ part of spending.

It means understanding consumers, how affected they are the by broader economic cycle and effect of domestic and international events is now table stakes for brands.

It means marketers need to be conducting a regular sense check.

They need to regularly read the room, assess the needs of the consumer, understand different consumers household budgets, and ensure their product or service remains relevant.

Not all Australians right now are hurting, despite the headlines that suggest this. Some are changing their spending habits, some are staying the course, and some are living it up.

Australians aged over 55 are still spending, largely unaffected by mortgage rate rises, and indeed benefitting from increased interest rates on savings accounts. Nearly 45 per cent of this demographic’s non-essential expenditure is up for grabs. How many briefs are in your system trying to extract as much value as possible from this audience?

As the cost-of-living crunches, and necessity purchases begin to be seen as luxury, searches for the best quality car are on the rise as consumers facing a big purchase look for longevity. According to dentsu’s Read the Room report, more than half of Australians consider purchasing a new mobile phone each year a luxury, that’s an opportunity for retailers to rethink bundles, offers, insurance and accessories.

The tide is turning on having multiple streaming services, with half of Australians surveyed believe having more than one as a luxury rather than a necessity. But for the streaming service that convinces Australians it is the ‘must have’ service to keep, the one that gives cache around the office and the one that answers the content needs of an entire household, there’s real opportunity there.

12.8 per cent of Australians have recently cancelled a health, home or car insurance policy with one in five of these people completely existing the market. The data suggests the value of insurance probably needs a rework.

40 per cent of Australians are reporting buying cheaper alcohol due to increased costs. Is this an opportunity for mid-market brands to review pricing? Or is now the time to double down on premium and steal share from the people with money to spend?

Marketers must ask the right questions to ensure they are finding the opportunities for growth.

What can you re-frame? Reposition? Re-promote? Are you discounting to someone who doesn’t need a discount? Are your products priced or bundled appropriately? Are they easily available to your consumers? Are you communicating at the right time? Are there any parts of a product or service that hasn’t been communicated in the past that should be now because they keep you in the necessities category of the household budget?

Yes, the cost-of-living continues to rise, but that doesn’t mean a brand has to take a cookie-cutter approach to framing its value to consumers.

As marketing expert and academic Mark Ritson cautions, when anyone in the marketing hot seat “crosses the threshold” into an organisation, they lose the ability to see the product or service they’re trying to sell from the customer’s perspective.

Remembering that market orientation is the first module is key. The household budget really is the bedrock for consumer brand success. It’s time to read the room and understand where your product or service sits and build strategies and deploy tactics accordingly.

This article originally appeared in The Australian.