StrategyMaximizing value marketing in unprecedented economic times

Maximizing value marketing in unprecedented economic times

While consumers face uncertainty, brands can stand out by prioritizing value and highlighting the positive impact of their products in their messaging

30-second summary:

  • Recent economic news has defied the predictions of recession-minded economists
  • Rather than a downturn, we can expect the global economy to tread water in 2023 or even grow
  • Nonetheless, consumers remain in a dark mood as they have less to spend and increasingly want value for their dollars
  • Brands can respond by providing better information on their owned properties, championing the broader category they are in, and emphasizing the holistic benefits of their products

Ahab Nimry: Why brands should focus on value marketing in an economic climate unlike any beforeApple’s advertising has taken an unusual turn. A recent video promoting iPhone 14, for example, starts with a darkened shot of a helicopter and helmeted workers frantically sprinting toward it. Called “The Rescue,” it touts the phone’s ability to text via satellite if you lose yourself in the wilderness far from a cell phone tower. Another recent video promotes the device’s car crash detection, while a similar Apple Watch spot touts its survivability in extreme circumstances. Why is it focusing on these value propositions?

These are dark, if not uncertain, times

Well, Apple has always been particularly good at getting the Zeitgeist right. And it is certainly reflecting something in the air. War, unrest, and inflation have driven huge spikes in food and energy prices, and unnerved consumers around the world. That said, the latest data also shows that major economies may be avoiding the worst of their fears. Unemployment remains near historic lows, and the US GDP rose an unexpected 2.9% in Q3 2022. The most recent inflation numbers are looking up, and in spite of dire warnings from economists, Adobe Analytics reported record online Black Friday sales of more than $9.12 billion.

Countless publications consistently tout the economic climate we find ourselves in as ‘unprecedented’ and ‘uncertain.’ Inflation is straining wallets, but are things bad as they seem? How can brands build a little more certainty into their world? The answer may lie in a different aspect of the dark Apple ads: An urgent focus on value marketing and the critical utility they deliver. Here’s how to get it right.

How to drive value marketing

Value marketing: Go bigger or go home

Chances are today, you’re facing a constrained marketing budget. Even though plenty of authorities, including The Harvard Business Review, consider this the wrong choice, it’s a fact of life for many marketers. If so, circumstances may tempt you to check your turn to less expensive advertising outlets, like social media. A better idea is to up the intensity of your ads. Take the risks you have always known you should. Make sure that whatever you create is so memorable that it makes up for the lack of volume. Apple is certainly taking risks by going dark and upping the intensity of its advertising. And you can do the same.

Level up your product information

The best way to reassure cautious consumers is with valuable information. You should make sure that people can find everything they need to make an informed decision. This needs to be on every platform where they encounter your products. That includes third-party marketplaces. Of course, it’s a huge job to make sure every Amazon and Walmart product and search results page has all of the information it needs. If so, you may want to consider hiring an outside e-commerce agency or accelerator to ensure consistency across every available touchpoint. Also, remember that informative doesn’t have to mean boring. Cash App, for example, has used celebrities like Megan Thee Stallion, Max Verstappen, and Kendrick Lamar to bring to life dry concepts like spending plans, cryptocurrency, and the value of compound interest.

Champion your brand’s category

In tough times, you may need not merely to convince customers why your product is the best. They may need to learn why they need such a product in the first place. That’s why it’s always important to tout the benefits of the entire category that contains your product or service. Health product and nutraceutical companies tend to be exceptionally good at this, often focusing on the overall value of a particular diet or supplement rather than why their version of it is best. In a totally different category, ARAG Legal has been using a series of blog posts and humorous ads that teach people and small businesses alike what legal insurance is and why they need it.

Connect to holistic benefits

A recent survey found that 70% of consumers define an excellent consumer experience as one that shows a strong relationship with the brand and evokes a feeling of “happiness.” As a result, it’s a good idea to ask yourself what your brand does to make its customers’ lives better. An energy drink might tout its ability to help scattered people concentrate. A sleep app may point to the overall health benefits of getting a good night’s sleep. But whatever you say, you should make sure it aligns strongly with your brand’s values and those of your customers.

Position the brand as a necessity

With “The Rescue,” Apple has positioned its iPhone as not merely a luxury or convenience, but a life-and-death necessity. This was a major effort. To do so, it first innovated to add a satellite cell phone feature and then created an ad with high production values to make the case for it. Yes, not every brand will want to go this dark or has an opportunity to position itself as a lifesaver. But the more you prove the indispensability of your brand, the better.

Why value marketing can help brands thrive in 2023

The coming year will hopefully not bring as many unwelcome shocks as 2022 and some pleasant surprises. But consumers will remain wary. In such an environment, value marketing may be the best insurance policy brands can achieve. If people are tightening their belts, you need to make sure you’re giving them solid reasons to buy. Great marketing may gain you plenty of eyeballs. But unless you can make a practical case for your product after you grab their attention, it’s unlikely you’ll overcome their rational reluctance to spend their money.


Ahab Nimry is Partner and CCO at Big Day.  Previously, he ran Gut Branding in San Diego where he handled brand development and campaign work for companies and agencies including BBDO and Phenomenon. Prior to that, he worked at Vitro, Waylon and in-house at Bass Pro Shops.  On a freelance basis, he’s partnered with the brands Budweiser, Ford, Pepsi, Disney, NFL and Shell.

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