Give Consumers Reasons to Stick With Your Brand

Universal McCann Study Finds Categories Vulnerable to Switching

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NEW YORK ( -- A recent temperature check of consumers' thoughts on the economy and their spending habits reveals that most believe the economy will continue to slide and that personal technology is a necessity most will not give up or reduce spending on.

Universal McCann's Econocurious Consumer Confidence survey, which was conducted in two waves, in November and March, shows that nearly the same number of people said the economy is worse now than it was three months ago (76% in March vs. 78% in November). However, the number of people who said they think the economy will decline even more in the next six months was larger in March (41%) than it was in November (35%).

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"I don't think we have seen confidence this low in years, but despite that, people are still loyal to preferred brands in categories that are considered closest to them and their well-being," said Daryl Lee, global president-communications planning and strategy at the Interpublic Group of Cos. agency. "If you're in one of those categories that can provide that to consumers, you will have loyal customers, but you need to keep reminding them of why they should be loyal."

The survey helps shed some light on the factors that drive purchase decisions and which brands consumers plan to continue to buy. In several categories, only about a third of consumers plan to remain brand loyal, and their resolve appears to be wavering. In November, 38% of consumers planned to remain brand loyal when shopping for toiletries, but only 37% still planned to do so in March. The same slight slip can be seen in other categories: skin care (33% in March vs. 35% in November); vitamins (32% in March vs. 34% in November). It does appear that consumers plan to slightly increase brand loyalty to beer, wine and liquor (33% in March vs. 32% in November.)

To the lowest bidder
Items from specific brands that consumers will buy only if they are discounted include groceries (39% in March vs. 37% in November), confectionary and candy (33% in March vs. 31% in November), personal technology (38% in both surveys), home entertainment (39% in March vs. 37% in November), clothing (48% in both surveys) and furniture (36% in March vs. 37% in November). More people in March (33%) than in November (30%) said when it came to over-the-counter medication they would pass on their regular brands for the cheapest deal they could find.

Mr. Lee said Universal McCann's advice to its clients is to behave in a way that inspires trust among consumers, because brand behavior is being scrutinized just as much as brand messaging in this climate.

Mr. Lee said he believes that despite a penny-pinching mind-set, consumers are still looking for reasons to stay with the brands they like. "Brands within the categories consumers are willing to spend in need to be innovative and creative and make consumers feel good about the purchases they have to make," he said.

One of the more interesting findings of the survey was how much consumers view technology as a necessity. Of the 88% of respondents who have the internet in their homes, only 8% (7% in November) plan to cut back on its usage. Of the 82% who have cellphones, only 13% intend to cut back on usage, compared with 9% in November.

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