It’s getting crunchy out there: Part one of many

Meditate on this

Meditate on this

Well in this time of crisis it takes some seriously hard work to understand what is going on and why.  Of course the nature of economic figures means that things have already happened or have been happening long before they are reported anyway.  The man who runs my local cornershop noticed penny-pinching nervousness and general moping amongst his mixed clientele many, many months ago.

Picking fact, cause and trend from a whirlpool of mindless fear mongering, gleeful Schadenfreude, unqualified, spectacularly biased pontificating and general guff is tough.  Complex, multicausal events which become entangled with political ideology are not something most media can even begin to report on with alacrity.  As usual, the Pearson stable and thoughful monthlies like Prospect have more to tell us. As does the wonderful LOLfed, which combines meme-y net humour with some interesting news, leaks and analysis.

I’ve been interested to see how brands are reacting. There is a long tradition of emphasising good value, low prices or just trustworthiness in a downturn but left unchecked this can lead to just more vapid, fear inducing and generally crap marcomms. The first to react some months ago that I noticed was ‘your credit card number is safe with us really’ discount retailer TK Maxx. Awful studio stock photos of gurning models were acompanied by copy reminding punters that you can still get a cheap coat in a ‘chilly economic climate’. Presumably one with knives sewn in that goes well with a sword walking stick, two lovely product lines that snuck into the retailer’s chaotic supply chain this month. Dumbness cubed.

More clever noises seem to be coming from Lloyds TSB – with a consistent and new message that it is Britain’s most trusted bank. Nationalised it may be along with the rest (except those chosing to infect themselves with petrodollars) but by getting a message of trustworthiness out there quickly it subtly depositions rivals while claiming a crucial space before any others get a look in.

“We’re damn cheap which is great because you’re rather broke” price signal based marcomms are usually suicidal in the long term to both margins and reputations. So look for smarter brands to go with ‘value’, ‘trust’ and all those lovely warm notions instead. Or else just bravely soldier on with other ideas, refusing to join the chorus of self harm that is reminding everyone just how awful everything is these days.

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