Value message must go beyond cost

Earlier this week, I was in Chicago for a PRWeek roundtable discussion on consumer PR and marketing. We'll publish a portion of the transcript in the September issue, but there are a few points worth sharing now.

Earlier this week, I was in Chicago for a PRWeek roundtable discussion on consumer PR and marketing. We'll publish a portion of the transcript in the September issue, but there are a few points worth sharing now.

Not surprisingly, the economy's effect on PR for consumer brands was one of the topics that generated a great deal of discussion. The state of the economy has understandably created a very anxious consumer. Price has become the main point of differentiation for many of those looking to purchase everyday household items. And so for some brands, price can, and should, be the most important part of the message. But for those brands that may not be able to compete with private label brands on price, the message has to be tweaked to connect with consumers and ultimately inspire spending.

Above all, what consumers are looking for is value—and that value proposition has to go beyond just price. There are many ways for brands to prove their value to consumers. The first step though is to truly understand the consumer segment that is being targeted. For the popular mom target, for example, value can come from knowing that a certain food product has health benefits for children that make it worth its price. Those brand qualities then become a central part of its message.

Customer service can also play a crucial part in value messaging. Consumers are looking for convenience, and customer service that goes beyond the normal expectations provides significant value. Companies such as Zappos, for example, have built their entire value proposition message around the idea of excellent customer service, virtually ignoring the issue of price.

For the influential millennial target, an important part of the value message is built around what the brand or company is doing to give back to the community. Sustainability, other CSR activities, and cause-related partnerships are what resonate with this group, so explaining a brand's commitment to these objectives becomes vital.

In today's environment, it is understandable that price will be a main part of most brands' messages. Yet those that go beyond that in communicating their value proposition will be able to form connections with consumers that can last well beyond the recession.

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