Consumers adopting mixed strategies

18 September 2009

MONTREUX: Companies and consumers around the world are taking varied approaches as they seek to respond to the recession, but opportunities still remain for brands in certain areas, the audience at the ESOMAR Congress 2009 heard yesterday.

A panel session at the annual event – which is covered in more detail here – attempted to provide a broad insight into the contemporary global climate.

Madhumita Chakraborty, of India's Corporate Executive Board, said that "when people think of India, they typically think of the bottom part of the pyramid."

However, she argued that the Asian nation is "shining", with economic growth of around 6% per year, two-thirds of its citizens under the age of 35, and a middle class which will grow from 5% of the population to 40% in the next 15 years.
This latter demographic will also contribute 50% of national consumption by that date, with changing values and purchase behaviour the main factors responsible for driving this trend.

Luis Arnal, from Insitum, a research firm, said that recession was nothing new to most Latin American countries, given the financial instability that has plagued much of the region over the last few decades.

However, this means the current crisis has also been much less of a shock to consumers, who have developed a wide variety of coping mechanisms, such as turning to informal trading, as a means to partially offset its negative consequences.

Michael Umogun, of Market Trends Research International, said many of the political and financial leaders in Africa had displayed a degree of complacency about their vulnerability to a slowdown.

Despite the fact that loans, credit lines and investment are all drying up, however, and in common with Latin America, he revealed that most people were taking a highly pragmatic approach, as, indeed, were clients of the market research industry.

The recession, he said, has "made our clients fall in love with old and obsolete data that they don't have to pay for." 

By contrast with some of their counterparts elsewhere, a survey undertaken in North America by Communispace found that consumers do not "feel in control", and also displayed highly divergent attitudes compared with business leaders.

Manila Austin, the company's director of research, said that while "C-Suiters" were looking to "simplify", "reflect" and "internalise", those classed as "Main Streeters" were "struggling", looking for "recrimination" and "externalising" their emotions. 

Focusing more specifically on one country in Europe, Alain Messerli, of Concept Zürich, said Switzerland had been relatively fortunate, but popular values were still changing, with an increasing emphasis on matters such as responsibility and sustainability.

He identified four values displayed by brands that are currently performing well in the country: modern leaders (e.g. Google); local charmers (local brands that accentuated their 'Swissness'); sustainability brands; and brands offering light-hearted confidence (e.g. McDonald's and Coke).

To read WARC's full coverage of the ESOMAR Congress in Montreux, click here.

Data sourced from WARC