MARCOM Business

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Does marketing create an essential value for the non-essential products?

MARCOM Business | Does marketing create an essential value for the non-essential products?
Among many other things, COVID-19 has given a reality check to the world by defining essential and non-essential products.

None of us are spared from being exposed to marketing activities adopted by brands – be it and ad campaign or a promotional event or just plain news in the daily newspaper. We are all privy to brands coming up with newer ways to sell us their products. And do we give in! Among many other things, COVID-19 has given a reality check to the world by defining essential and non-essential products.

Experts are increasingly arguing the value many brands provide to their consumers, especially in times of crisis. Many say that marketing is just a means for brands to “create a perceived essential value for their non-essential products”. This has put, both, brands and consumers in a situation where they are forced to revisit strategies and buying behaviour.

So, what really are these essential and non-essential businesses?

In the past 3 months, the government has defined which business falls under what category – primarily focussing on food and shelter as essential products. Many disagree with it stating that “essential need” is a variable concept dependent on factors such as location, income and even profession.

The lockdown has taught us the exact meaning of what essentially is part of a survival kit and what is an add-on.

According to Economic Times, e-commerce giants like Amazon and Flipkart have reported a huge decline in purchases of non-essential items such as fashion, electronics, home decor, among many others. Discretionary spending by consumers is almost non-existent majorly due to the economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic. But it has also awakened a community of value conscious consumers. Many have begun to revisit the purpose of products that were viewed desirable before the lockdown.

So what has changed?

The product is the same. The brand is the same. The consumer, physically, is the same. What has sprung up is the idea of analysing how essential a product is with respect to its price.

And brands are facing the challenge to stay relevant and capture this evolved consumer.

Makemytrip has been running campaigns focussing on the idea of a vacation and how blissful it all was before the pandemic. Bookmyshow and PVR have associated attending an event or going for a movie as an experience that enlivens the mood. Luxury fashion brands and labels have been running digital campaigns targeted towards storytelling – of their brand’s heritage and values.

None of them, however, successfully tackle the question of exactly why a consumer should purchase their products over saving the money in a state of financial uncertainty.

Brands and marketers develop campaigns that aim to showcase the emotion a consumer exhibits in presence of the said product, thereby, generating need and want. This inherent strategy of any marketing campaign has been generating sales for brands since decades. The focus on selling the emotion and feeling is so strong that a consumer feels almost compelled to make the purchase – most often ignoring the value offering of the product.

Marketers are taught to do so as part of running a successful marketing strategy. They learn to do so. And with time, they just get better at doing it.

A good marketer is able to sell a product to a consumer and a smart marketer is able to altogether create a demand for it anew. We refer to this yet another strategy as “upselling” in business marketing jargon.

Upselling is defined as an act of increasing either the value of a single purchase or the number of products purchased by a consumer.

You want to buy a t-shirt that you like at my story, I successfully sell a dress (of a higher value) instead. Upsold!

While you come to buy a dress at my store, I also persuade you to buy a stole that matches very well. Upsold!

While you might need the dress, you definitely didn’t plan for the stole. Yet, you bought it because “you din’t know you needed it”. Such is the power of great marketing and selling skills. And this is what brands strategise not only in stores, but also in all advertisements and campaigns that surround you.

Consumers spend a lot of their earnings on such products because they like the emotion that comes with it and that, for some, is a justification enough. After all, we all work hard so that we can enjoy the luxuries of life.

So while we all may understand or even know this at some level, this type of purchasing behaviour is unlikely to change. Because the validation and recognition that comes with purchasing something aspirational – or just because we can – is intrinsic to us humans. Something no pandemic can take away.