The COVID-19 pandemic is a defining event for consumer packaged goods brands. It not only cracked the CPG world into “before” and “after,” it also unraveled the symbiotic nature of brands’ commercial and consumer businesses. Business segments reeled as away-from-home revenue dropped.
In mid-March, consumer spending on CPG goods rose 35%. It has remained at elevated levels ever since, with September sales up 14% compared to a year ago -- a data point flush with potential. And yet, enthusiasm is tempered by other business realities. Brands are more cautious, making tough strategic decisions to balance competing business needs.
Advertisers must now grapple with how to move forward into a protracted future in which uncertainty is a constant. It’s time for CPG marketers to wrest control of the wheel and implement smart, strategic planning. To accelerate and sustain brand growth, advertisers need to identify the turns early and be agile in their responses.
CPG insights are the closest thing we have now to a roadmap. In looking at consumer buying behavior over the course of the pandemic, brands can use insights to predict the moment when behaviors will shift, allowing them to plan for future turns.
Pay attention to shifts in buying behavior
We’ve identified three phases to CPG buying over the course of the pandemic: preparedness buying, extreme buying and home-confined buying.
Currently, we’re in an extended home-confined period in which CPG spend remains elevated. We know from data that seasonal events remain reliable predictors of spending behaviors. Consumers still want to mark milestones and celebrate holidays. They’re doing so more at home, so advertising just ahead of these dates can put brands top of mind.
Another spike of COVID-19 cases along with more shelter-in-place orders will spur preparedness buying and possibly another period of extreme buying. Brands and grocery stores are already preparing for a potential second surge, as noted in a recent Wall Street Journal article.
Loyalty: Sharpen focus on the most relevant buyers
Marketers need to invest in advertising to brand build loyalty — even if it seems like the wrong time. As the pandemic shows staying power, it becomes more crucial for brands to engage with consumers. Research has proven that a targeted audience focus on a brand’s best buyer group can help drive incremental sales. By connecting with loyal buyers and new buyers through advertising, brands can build loyalty.
Creative: How to sustain incredible growth, while also being sensitive
Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen that consumers are especially sensitive to brand messaging. For instance, 85% of consumers say they want to see the same amount or more communication from advertisers, according to one study.
Buyers expect brands to be empathetic and adapt to their needs. To build a long-term loyal relationship, brands need to develop creative that fits the moment. With the right types of messages, they meet consumers where they are and add value.
Even in unprecedented times, insights can guide the way. CPG brands should sharpen their advertising focus on the most relevant buyers and plan for potential scenarios to prepare for quick pivots. Those that do will be able to sustain organic growth beyond the pandemic.