Should your business go back to the future?

Craig Flanders

  • CEO, Spinach
Craig Flanders is the CEO of Spinach, a full service, truly integrated agency with capabilities in advertising, strategic planning, digital, data and media.

There is an opportunity to reshape society and business for the better as the world recovers from the economic impacts of COVID. Already we are seeing a resurgence in “good old fashioned” values.

Research shows people are increasingly keeping things local, taking pride in their neighbourhoods and cooking more at home. Parents have become more involved in their children’s education and the upheaval has led to closer relationships in many aspects, despite restrictions on activities such as travel and socializing.

For businesses grappling with the continually changing landscape, there is an opportunity to leverage this sentiment to emerge from the recessionary conditions many countries are now experiencing.

Keeping it local

Before there were mega malls and destination shopping centres, people shopped local. From the Mom and Pop owned general store to the nearby high street, there wasn’t the option to shop elsewhere. With supply chains compromised by the pandemic and people either cautious or unable to travel far from home, we’re seeing a return to the local store in droves.

According to research conducted by Spinach in September, Australians are more interested in buying Australian made products in general with 60 per cent of those surveyed now more interested in purchasing products made by companies in their local community.

Businesses can make the most of this opportunity by reassessing who their real competition is. Your competitive threats may now be more locally focused, and that will be a challenge for the less flexible, less apparently local, one size fits all ‘big chain’ operators. Celebrating the provenance of your products will take on new meaning and give you an edge with a local audience.

Catering to the home cook

Research from June conducted by McCrindle shows 46 per cent of Australians are spending more time cooking and baking. The seemingly old-fashioned habit of baking took on a new life during lockdown with sourdough rising to newfound fame.

The Guardian reports the practice became a “meditative and empowering act” and research from Spinach shows Australians are embracing the cooking trend with one survey respondent noting they are: “Definitely spending more time at home, cooking, talking and planning for life after lockdown and when the borders open”.

In fact, groceries are showing the biggest increase in spend with Spinach research finding 36 per cent of Australians are spending more in this area. Victorians, in particular, who have recently emerged from months under lockdown have seen the greatest rise in spend on groceries. 

A forecast by Forrester puts grocery as the fastest-growing category in the Asia-Pacific region with the adoption of online grocery shopping adding to a compound annual growth rate of 30 per cent from 2019 to 2024, reaching US$359 billion.

This trend is coupled with a marked decrease in spend on dining out, according to our research. This is true even for Australian states where COVID restrictions have long been lifted suggesting a return to home cooking is here to stay for some time.

The obvious winners are grocery brands. With the increase in online grocery shopping, businesses without a solid eCommerce platform would be wise to invest in one now to fuel the traditional urge to cook.

From a marketing perspective, it has been interesting to see players from the under siege local hospitality sector tap the home cooking trend with pre-cooked and par-cooked gourmet meals, restaurant quality recipes and ‘finish off at home’ package deals that make the quality experience easy and enjoyable for the engaged amateur chef. Just because the values behind the activity are long-established, it doesn’t mean they can’t be updated with all the mod cons.

Tapping into ‘at-home’ nostalgia

Research conducted in August by McKinsey shows 75 per cent of the Australian population is actively avoiding regular activities outside of the home. Trend Hunter cites the rise of ‘at-home nostalgia’ and notes that as people are spending more time at home, entertainment lends to the feeling of relaxation by integrating nostalgia.

To tap into this trend, there has been a resurgence of products and services that are re-releases of items Millennials, in particular, recognise from childhood. Examples of this trend in culture abound such as the renewed interest in the TV program, Friends, the popularity of the McDonald’s Monopoly game or a resurgence in the love of Lego.

Nostalgia is a tricky sentiment to nail and if misjudged can make the business look dated or old fashioned. That’s not to say it can’t be done, even by new brands without established histories.

Start by assessing your audience. If your brand appeals to a mass cross-generational audience, being too prescriptive about how you apply nostalgia could alienate parts of your customer base. Instead, consider whether nostalgia can be infused through design – certain fonts and colours can conjure up feelings of the past without turning off potential buyers.

Ultimately, you want to identify ways to tap into the desire for the familiar that sit with your brand and appeals to consumers.

With shifting consumer values and sentiment, there’s never been a better time for businesses to reassess how they present themselves and how to better communicate with current and prospective customers as they rediscover values from the past.

Tags: brand strategy, marketing strategy

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