Supply chain software firm BlueYonder recently found that 87% of consumers faced out-of-stocks at their grocery store. A related survey from eMeals reported that shoppers are unable to find 40% of grocery items on their shopping lists.
A supply-constrained climate like this challenges how brands are perceived, evaluated and valued.
Shopkick found 85% of consumers say brand names do not matter during times of crisis. And 69% are purchasing different brands if a preferred one is not available.
Years ago, I drew the following cartoon on the classic marketing technique of “Brand Laddering,” where brand teams try to elevate the benefits of a brand from technical to functional to emotional. The general idea is that higher order benefits may lead to greater brand loyalty.
But the results of “brand laddering” exercises can be ridiculous, often overstating the actual role of brands in people’s lives.
Even in normal times, consumers simply don’t think about brands as much as the brand teams who work on them. As Byron Sharp pointed out in How Brands Grow, consumers are far less brand loyal than marketers think. What really drives brand growth is physical and mental availability. Physical availability is the breadth and depth of distribution (i.e. can people find your brand). Mental availability is the probability of a consumer noticing, recognizing, and thinking of your brand in a buying situation.
This is a good time for marketers to refocus on the basics, and to think about how they can deliver real value to people in this environment. As an example, Mondelez is simplifying its portfolio to provide access to their most familiar brands like Triscuit, Oreo, and Ritz, prioritizing offerings such as bigger pack formats.
It may not be as sexy as higher order benefits, but physical availability is more important.
Here are a few related cartoons I’ve drawn over the years: