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Home > By DEPARTMENTS > Sales and Marketing > Small Business Marketing

Consumers Tighten Purchasing Strategies for Value

Green marketing is much like value marketing: go low or go high -- the middle market gets squeezed.

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Green marketing is very similar to high tech marketing: early innovation is costly until inventory and production levels reach payback balances. But consumers ALWAYS face a dichotomy in their purchasing decisions: "just good enough" to get the job done... OR ... high value that has added benefits such as long life or higher performance.

As these marketing researchers illustrate, a fragile economy narrows the playing field between these two ends of the product value chain.

Marketing Experts Recommend Two Strategies in This Fragile Economy

One effect of this shaky economy is the dramatic shift in consumer spending patterns. Demand for more value may continue long after an economic recovery, leading to bankruptcy or demise for some well-known companies if they don’t adjust their positioning.

But green companies can fight declining profits and eroding market share with two powerful positioning strategies, say marketing experts.

New Consumer Purchasing Mindset

"Consumers have a new mindset about buying branded goods. The economic downturn has caused everyone to rethink every purchase decision, including purchases that used to be automatic for them. Now they ask themselves if they really need to buy a name brand,” says Dr. Robert P. Leone of the M.J. Neeley School of Business at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth and Dr. Randle D. Raggio of Louisiana State University.

Consumers Rethink Every Purchase Decision

As a result, consumers have totally changed their purchasing behaviors.

The two strategies recommended by Leone and Raggio are called “just good enough” and “altered amortization.” Depending on certain factors, either approach could be successful, but only one can be chosen for any brand since the methods are mutually exclusive. Both, however, are all about value.

Just Good Enough Purchasing Strategy

In the "just good enough" strategy, brands are marketed as having adequate quality at low prices. This influences consumers to feel that prestige brands aren’t worth their higher prices when lesser brands will do.

"With breakfast cereal, for example, as money got tight many consumers switched to store brands to save a buck or two per box," says Dr. Leone. "The attitude is, 'This store brand is good enough.'"

Even some luxury products can be marketed as being just good enough. For instance, the Hyundai Genesis, a luxury sedan, has been directly compared to Lexus but is much less expensive.

Substantially The Same!

"If Hyundai can convince you the Genesis is substantially the same as a Lexus, with essentially the same features, why pay thousands more for the Lexus?" Dr. Leone says. "Hyundai is not claiming to be a prestige brand, but they’re claiming the Genesis is just as good."

Altered Amortization Purchasing Strategy

In contrast, the "altered amortization" strategy portrays prestige brands as being worth the costly price tags through attributes such as
  • Being longer lasting
  • Requiring fewer repairs
  • Experiencing less depreciation
  • Offering extra amenities such as money-back guarantees and extended warranties.

"Some products can capitalize on an image of high quality and durability, which some consumers may not have considered so much before. With vehicles, for instance, durability and fuel economy are now much more important to potential buyers than styling since these save money in the long run," explains Dr. Leone.

Best Value Marketing Strategy

Brands not decisively marketed as offering the best value, either by being just good enough or presenting altered amortization, risk fading from the marketplace. These brands are "stuck in the middle."

Lowest Price OR High-Quality Benefits ... Nothing In-Between

"A brand stuck in the middle is not a value offering. It doesn’t have the lowest price in terms of the value proposition, and it’s not a high-quality product that would cost less over time due to reliability and durability," Dr. Leone says. "Before the economic downturn, a lot of consumers were willing to buy from companies in the middle. Now they’re not."

Companies also must make the right choice between the just good enough or altered amortization strategies. Choosing incorrectly can be dangerous. Lesser brands that reach for altered amortization face huge upfront costs. Prestige brands that lower pricing toward just-good-enough status could see increases in purchase volume, but may damage brand image and long-term profitability.

"Taking a high-prestige brand and heading downstream with it is risky," says Dr. Leone. "It would be better for the company to come up with an entirely different brand name for a ‘just good enough’ product."

Even when the right choice is made, either strategy carries increased expenses for aggressive promotion and advertising. In addition, altered amortization may require research and development expenditures to back any claims of superior quality and develop new value-related add-ons.

"Brands really have to focus on their value proposition and decide what they want to be to their customers," Dr. Leone says.

"Postscript: Preserving (and Growing) Brand Value in a Downturn" is an extension of Leone and Raggio’s earlier work. It appeared recently in a special issue on brand valuation in the Journal of Brand Management. Dr. Leone, professor of marketing, also guest edited the issue.



Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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