This morning I read an intriguing article in the Minneapolis/St Paul Star Tribune, titled The One Thing. Even in this tough economy, there are certain guilty pleasures we can’t live without. Readers wrote in about what they continue to purchase purely for happiness sake, even when times are tough. Among the items listed:
- $4-$10/each handmade soaps
- $10 bouquet of fresh flowers
- $10-$12/4 pack of Surly beer
- Specialty hobby books and hobby supplies
- Bombay Sapphire martini
- Gucci handbags
- $300 jeans
- Nail salon service
- silk thread for needle work
- Blockbuster subscription
- Organic groceries and other specialty grocery items (dark chocolate, hot chocolate, real maple syrup)
My impression of the list? When consumers are emotionally invested in a product or service, they will continue to purchase it. What’s that mean from a marketing standpoint? Some ideas:
- Small companies: now is the time to connect with your core customer base. Take an extra moment to let your core customers know that they are important to you, too. Consumers like to know that the money they spend is doing a dual purpose: they’re getting the good or service they desire and they’re supporting a company they believe in. Let customers know that you think they’re special too: it could be as simple as taking a moment to talk with them in the store, giving them a quick call to thank them or follow up on a recent service, or sending a personal note.
- Promote your product or service as a guilty pleasure. Take advantage of the fact that consumers are selectively spending money on products they value. While competitors slash prices, you can stand out in the crowd by calling out your product’s exceptional quality and value.
- Help consumers to see your product or service as essential to a lifestyle. How does your product fit into the consumer’s identity? A lot of people in the Star Tribune poll mentioned items associated with hobbies. Hobbies certainly provide pleasure for consumers, but they are also a key aspect of the consumer’s identity—people define themselves by the activities they do, and cultivate the image that goes with it. Let consumers know that your product or service is the ONE THING that communicates their lifestyle, more than anything else.
It occurs to me that these are tried and true marketing strategies in any economy and not necessarily earth-shattering in their revelations. However, those businesses who can capitalize on consumer’s emotional spending are likely to fare best in this economy. Now, pardon me while I go purchase some gourmet coffee pods, sushi, and an Us Magazine.