And rightfully so, because consumers are spending a whole lot less, making successful marketing a whole lot harder. Time magazine recently reported, for example, that 61% of people are spending less - and will continue to spend less - than they did before.
Knowing, as we do, that women represent 85% of consumer spending and translate into a $5 trillion market, it's very clear that knowing how to market to women in this recession is the gold pot at the end of the rainbow.
'Recessionistas' and 'Chickonomics'
This recession, in truth, has women doing things differently. It is transforming what they need, how they think, how they spend, and what matters to them most. Chief among the changes - practicality is up, way up. It's the new badge of honor that has women clipping coupons, waiting for sales, buying lipstick instead of Lanvin, and planting whole foods instead of shopping there.
Today's recession woman swears frugal living is now fabulous. She checks price tags more carefully, goes swapping instead of shopping or shops in her own closet, plants vegetables in the backyard, cans and freezes what she grows, and believes it has never been more chic to be cheap. According to the Global Language Monitor, the so-called "recessionista" has become one of the top fashion buzz words of the year, along with its sibling "chiconomics."
Rebirth From Recession
Women are actually making this recession into a rebirth, or a renaissance, resetting the out-of-whack socioeconomic thermostat that had everyone living large, as if there were no tomorrow and no bills to pay. Common sense now seems to be taking over. Women are giving birth to a new class system, which is really the old class system, where middle class values are paramount and where only the very few can afford real luxury all the time. The rest of us can only dream about it ... or indulge in it once in awhile.
Consider, if you will, that brands that represent authentic value, such as Aldi, Kmart, Costco, Kraft, etc., have maintained and even improved their status. Likewise, absolute luxury brands such as like Harry Winston, Hermes and Burberry, grew eight percent last year. Those that suffered most were the "aspirational" or accessible brands such as Coach, Dasani, Whole Foods, etc. These so-called "badge brands," that really should have only been embraced by the few, became mainstays of the middle class. Not so much now.
Guidelines for Marketers
Prompted by women experiencing today's continuing rough times, this rebirth of middle class values creates a variety of opportunities for those marketing in the days ahead. Here are nine guidelines to think about:
1. "Authentic value" is the new price of entry. Only what is good, trusted and worthy will win the race in the minds of today's women. And those who adapt first, will lead the pack.
2. Little luxuries are always and still appreciated - be it a candle, fabric softener, new shampoo, perfume or chocolate. These little luxuries are more important than ever because they make women feel special, happy, complete and optimistic.
3. Big luxuries are still sought, but more selectively. Witness DeBeers new "Fewer, Better Things" campaign that was conceived with the thought that "things with enduring value are better perceived than those that are disposable."
4. Functional luxuries, such as cell phones, iPods, and high speed internet, are all seen as essential, and still-necessary objects.
5. Practicality can be profitable. Be it big screen TV to entertain at home, high-quality coffee to prepare at home, or an ongoing relationship with Netflix. Anything can become practical if given the right frame of reference.
6. Comfort is in. Kraft, Heinz, Hershey, Uggs ... they make women feel good, calm and safe. If your brand can tout it, find comfort in comfort.
7. The thrill is in the hunt. With bargain-hunting added, shopping just got more exciting. And bargains have never looked better than they do today.
8. Green is still in the black. Green products are still viewed not as a luxury to do without, but rather, as the right thing to do.
9. Transparency has never been more clear. Suspicion and wariness surround big business now and customers demand that marketers be more honest and loyal with them. And as a marketer, keep in mind that if you don't hold up, word of mouth has never had more volume.
Laced in the what, why and how women are buying in today's tough economy are myriad opportunities for marketers. Both for now and as we emerge from the recession. It pays to pay attention.