Consumer Confidence

I love the Ellen DeGeneres line, “A disturbing new study finds that studies are disturbing.” How true is that?

I know that studies like the Adweek/Harris Poll Adweek Media/Harris Poll try to maintain that consumers are only marginally impacted by negative advertising: “Twelve percent of the survey respondents say ads that mention the recession or troubling economic times are depressing and make them less likely to purchase the brand. But 39 percent have no opinion…”

  • Honestly, I don’t believe it. It’s not that customers lie. It’s just that we ask them the wrong questions.
  • They may have no opinion, but that doesn’t mean that they have no reaction.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe in research. But sometimes we take what customers say too literally. Take the recent finding that, “while most consumers expected they will eat out as frequently in the coming year as they have in the past 12 months, the amount they expect to spend–an average of $11.49 per meal–was almost 20% less than the average spending per meal reported in the study released earlier this year.”

Seriously? Do we really think that people are able to project how much they will be spending twelve months from now?

Another poll from AP-GfK declared, “The euphoria of 2008 is over: America is in a funk,” and that there has been ongoing slippage in consumer optimism. In my view, that’s not surprising. The onslaught of negative advertising is almost scary.

Currently, my least favorite television commercial receiving a ton of air time begins, “Economy in crisis…families struggling…” Every time I hear it, I get a little sick to my stomach and want to return those cute shoes I bought in Chicago over Thanksgiving weekend.

And I know I’m not alone. I’ve been doing my own patented methods of research. You know me … I was doing a little strategic eavesdropping the other day and overheard a guest comment, “Don’t tell me I’m broke. I know I’m broke.” I overheard someone else telling a friend her response to companies that make economic-based appeals, “I don’t need you to watch my money for me.”

Beyond the basics of supply and demand, the only thing I remember from my grad school economics class is that consumer confidence is the leading indicator most highly correlated to future economic growth. Frankly, that’s all I need to persuade me that making people nervous about the economy isn’t the way to encourage them back into our restaurants.

  • As a marketer, my job is clear. I may be selling value, but the appeal can’t be based in fear. Even value deals can be couched in positive messages.
  • I had lunch at Cameron Mitchell’s Cap City Diner the other day, and they have an offer for gift cards: “Buy $100, get a $25 gift card for yourself.” But that wasn’t the main message. The main message was, “Give the Gift of Togetherness.” Now that’s something that could inspire customers back into our restaurants.

Value offerings are empowering because they give consumers permission to have the lifestyle they want, free of guilt. Creating that positive “guilt free” confidence is our job. And in case you need a little “positivity fix,” I love the Starbucks Love Project. Here’s the link…enjoy.

Until next time, I’d love to hear your thoughts.