Even the most consumer-focused marketers will be tempted, or pushed, to get people to pay more for less this year. Pricing will be a major issue, as cost increases caused by the weak pound feed through. How should marketers express the voice of the consumer inside the business in the face of this pressure? Being consumer-focused doesn’t mean defending low prices at all costs. The key thing is, whatever approach you take, brand champions must ensure there’s no long term damage. That means getting credit for honesty, and keeping the essential nature of your brand and product.
There are three options to protect margins.
There is a fourth option, which is to suck it up. Don’t mess with the product or the price. Protect the consumer experience and value for money, not your margins. It’s not an option for everyone. Absorbing higher costs will hit the business in its pocket. But if competitors are messing about with an eye on the short term, as above, your brand could be the winner, in volume in the near term and loyalty in the longer term. Companies with a portfolio may hedge their bets with a range of responses across different brands. It’s a real test of short term vs long term orientation.
What about businesses where the pricing is not transparent – services, such as insurance, or anything subscription-based? The temptation there is to try to hold the line, and give in with secret discounts only to customers who threaten to leave. We all know this goes on – motor insurance, roadside rescue and pay TV services are notorious for it. It’s good for short term revenue, but can cause harm when it gets out. It also changes the customer interaction from a potential relationship to a game of cat and mouse. It’s an option, but don’t talk about loyalty or brand love.
Brands are supposed to help people make choices. If your brand takes advantage of the customers who trust it, or if it requires a lot of customer effort to get a fair deal, it may be time to think again. You have options. Just check you’re not messing up the customer experience through an inferior product or undermining their trust.
People scoffed when ticket inspectors on the train became revenue protection officers. But it’s honest. As you make difficult calls this year, make sure you’re still a brand manager and not just a revenue protection officer.