It’s hard not to hear about the cost of living crisis, with food, petrol and utilities prices soaring daily – UK gas prices have now hit a three month high. With the government urging businesses to slash prices, how will this affect brand pricing and brand loyalty as we tighten our belts to make purchase decisions? Associate Dean, Angela Lawrence talks of her own brand loyalty challenges.
I love a tin of Heinz tomato soup, the flavour reminds me of my youth – Dad opening a family-sized tin of soup, warming it on the stove and dishing it out to our eagerly awaiting hands, scooping bowls like real life Oliver Twists. I’ve tried various supermarket brands, cheaper versions of tomato soup, but quite honestly nothing tastes quite like Heinz (with a dash of Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce!).
We’re told that Britons are paying almost £3 more for an average 20-item shopping basket than 12 months ago and as my weekly basket cost increases, I noticed whilst browsing the supermarket shelves of late that my beloved tin of soup has now increased in price to well over £1. As I write, it is on offer at £1.10 in Sainsburys compared to 59p for their own brand version. A search online shows that I’m not alone in loving that Heinz taste and that the Asda version at 50p is as good as it gets. So, naturally I’m going to give it a try – if it hits the mark then Asda could become my new best friend.
So, I am prepared to sacrifice my loyalty to the Heinz brand and The Grocer magazine reports that up and down the country frugal shoppers are making similar decisions – 34% of us are switching branded products for cheaper alternatives. Yet as a marketer, I am passionate about branding, I teach students about branding and I recognise the importance of branding for business success. Branding enables businesses to grow loyalty, to command higher prices and to stand out and be recognised amongst competitors.
However, it’s not all about selling at a higher price – businesses invest heavily in branding campaigns and seek to connect with their target audience with strong branding. If we want our country to crawl out of the threatened recession then we surely want businesses to be successful – it’s not just the powerhouses such as Heinz, but the SMEs up and down the country who all invest in, and rely on branding for business success.
The struggle is real and the branding dilemma seems to be affecting stocks of branded products already, my favourite soup included. I wonder whether this is the end for branding – will newly formed shopping habits remain once this cost of living crisis is over, or will we simply revert to making purchase decisions based on brand loyalty? Will belief in the power of branding be damaged and will brands ultimately have less power? Perhaps brand owners will have to consider new tactics to appeal and maybe trimming a penny or two here and there will make the difference.
Lots to ponder over and I’m not sure that I have the answer, but I’m looking forward to healthy discussions about branding when students return to Teesside University in September. Meanwhile, I might just nip to Asda now, to purchase that tin of soup… which may help me to make up my mind!
The School of Arts & Creative Industries offers a wide range of courses that include modules on branding – here is a selection to browse through: