Less_is_More_by_slcrawford

Walker Smith writes: In my earlier post, I wrote about the new world of less. A world in which possibilities look more constrained, incomes are tighter, and less seems smarter.

In a context of expanding horizons, making do with less is seen as failure because there is plenty for everyone. Aspirations are focused on more.  In that context, it’s no surprise that less never caught on.

But in today’s context of contracting horizons, less is reality. Aspirations must be conditioned by less, so less, not more, becomes the benchmark of success. Making it is about making more of less.

Three implications for brand marketers stand out.

First, the accumulation of more is giving way to the prioritization of less. The underpinning of shopping is no longer finding more to spend. Instead, it’s figuring out how less to buy. This is not frugality. The top of the priority list remains the best to be had, not some scaled-down version. But the list of things to have and do will be more sharply divided into things that make the cut and things that don’t. It’s no longer enough for a brand to make it into the consideration set; brand marketers must get their brand to the top of the list, even across categories.

A good example is life insurance and GenXers. A recent study conducted by The Futures Company for New York Life found that one in five GenXers have no life insurance, well above the one in twenty in 2008.  For those with insurance, the coverage gap between what they have and what they need is 24 percent higher in 2013 than in 2008. Weaker finances have put insurance lower on the priority list. Getting GenXers back into the market for life insurance is only partly about changing their views of life insurance. It also requires changing their views of life insurance relative to other priorities, and this may require going beyond insurance to redefine how GenXers think about other things.

Second, existing customers are the whole ballgame these days. Loyalty marketing is the only game in town.

With financial pressures and sharing options at hand, consumers want – and need – brands to do more for them. They think they deserve it. They know more, and more of what to do about it. They are ready to switch at a moment’s notice if they don’t get it.

Brand marketers know it’s harder than ever to replace lost customers, so plugging the leaks in a brand franchise is essential. Growth will come from strengthening loyalty and building more of the value for which customers will be willing to pay.

Finally, brand marketers must rethink their business models. In a sharing economy, brands are less of a product and more of a service. Revenue and service happen differently. Resource constraints will require that brand marketers find efficiencies in distribution and delivery, meaning new forms of engagement with consumers. Financial worries will keep value salient and ownership challenging. In today’s world, smart shopping means making more of less.

A version of this post first appeared in Branding Strategy Insider, and is re-published here with our acknowledgments. The image at the top of the post is by S L Crawford, and is used with thanks.

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