Opinion: 5 consumer needs that brands must satisfy to survive the pandemic
“We understand you want to feel safe,” says a new Buick GMC ad. This is more than a clever way of adjusting messaging to the times. It’s a crucial tactic for survival.
The coronavirus pandemic is poised to create a new generation of winning and losing brands. Some companies will shrink or shut down, while others will come out stronger. “Who will the winners be?” and “How can I increase the chances my brand is one of them?” are questions on every leader's mind.
Aside from obvious differentiators—brick-and-mortar versus online, healthcare and IT versus travel and leisure—one key factor will determine who comes out on top: how good a brand makes consumers feel about themselves.
Emotions drive consumer behavior. Brands that reaffirm us are the ones that consumers will buy again and again, according to three studies of thousands of consumers my firm conducted on how emotions influence purchasing. When a product or service makes people feel good about themselves, 94 percent of consumers are highly likely to purchase it repeatedly. In contrast, 79 percent of those who feel bad about themselves after making a purchase are unlikely to buy that brand again. And it isn't only expensive or elite items that make people feel good about themselves, but products and services across many different price points and categories from food to clothing, electronics to personal services.
With fear, anxiety and depression running high, products and services that soothe nerves stand a much better chance of building loyalty while maintaining or even increasing sales. Helping consumers feel good about themselves in these five areas will give companies an edge:
Food manufacturers play this chord often, touting products as hard-earned rewards or treats. Muffin Break has it nailed with its “You Deserve It” ads. Everyday items like bath and shower products can be positioned in a similar way. With people feeling stressed on a variety of fronts—from personal finances to family life as everyone shelters at home—consumers are likely to gravitate toward products and services that promise a reward, however small it might be.
Apple has teamed with the Centers for Disease Control on a new app that helps people screen themselves for COVID-19. Beyond assessing the possibility of infection, users feel like they’re making a beneficial decision for society and themselves—something that leads to brand loyalty. When brands describe their increased sanitation procedures, social distancing measures and initiatives to ensure product safety, consumers feel like they made a good decision to purchase from them.
When consumers feel they’re being financially smart by buying a product or service, they’re more likely to make the same purchase again. To acknowledge this feeling, companies should point out that their products are a good value and returnable if not fully satisfied. These messages make spending now feel less risky. The Buick GMC ad goes on to offer zero percent financing for 84 months and deferred payment options to help consumers feel they’re making smart spending decisions.
Calm, the maker of meditation products whose ads promise better sleep, lower stress and less anxiety, is one of the many companies tapping into consumers' need to care for themselves. Some product categories, including home fitness equipment, are more naturally suited to this type of message. But almost any product or service that reduces stress or provides a mental break can be positioned as enhancing self-care.
Products and services that boost a consumer's sense of control create a strong emotional connection. McDonald's new ads, reminding customers about their drive-through and delivery options, seek to soothe the frustration of not being able to go out for a meal. Many automakers are offering the ability to shop online and take delivery at home. Generous return policies and warranties also enhance feelings of control.
Making consumers feel like they’re checking even one or two of these boxes will go a long way toward making consumers feel good about themselves, and about your brand, during and after the pandemic.