Cost of living crisis is no laughing matter for brands, consumers tell IPA

Brands have been banging on about purpose for the last couple of years. Now is the time for them to put their money where their mouth is.

The cost of living crisis means that pretty much everyone is tightening their belts, so there’s an opportunity for brands to step up and help their customers. That might be with pricing, promotions or loyalty rewards – and perhaps a bit of guidance or hand-holding with relevant advice and information.

A new poll by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising shows that consumers do indeed see a role for brands during the cost of living crisis. Mainly they want them to keep prices fair (57%), freeze prices on value ranges (36%), offer more value on promotions (33%), and reward loyalty (30%).

Price and value are the priorities – only 3% say they want brands to make them laugh or smile, and only 8% want them to develop new solutions and ideas. Either consumers have lost their sense of humour, or (perhaps more likely) they’ve lost their faith in brands’ ability to be funny or helpful.

Older people 55+ are a lot more concerned about keeping prices fair than the younger 18-34s (72% vs 36%), and women more than men (62% vs 52%).

Retailers are already addressing some of these consumer demands. Waitrose is expanding its Essentials range to cover pretty much everything on the list for a basic food shop, and John Lewis is doing the same with its affordable Anyday range, which covers interiors and fashion. Similarly, M&S is doubling down on its “Dine in for £10” offering.

Asda has launched a “Dropped and Locked” initiative, in which the price of 100 key items has been reduced and frozen for a year. Morrisons has cut prices on 500 essential items, Sainsbury’s is price matching Aldi, and Tesco’s messaging proclaims directly that “We want you to spend less with us.”

Paul Bainsfair, director general of the IPA, said: “The cost of living crisis is a serious issue especially for those at the older end of the spectrum, so it is understandable that consumers aren’t looking to brands to provide the fun but to provide help where it hits hardest – their finances.

“With further pressures forecast this won’t be easy for brands to navigate, but as the data shows, those that are fair and transparent with their pricing and value proposition may well fare better in their customers’ eyes going forward.”


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