Marketing Briefing: Inflation pushes marketers to value messaging and ongoing sales promotions as they court ‘savvy shoppers’

This Marketing Briefing covers the latest in marketing for Digiday+ members and is distributed over email every Tuesday at 10 a.m. ET. More from the series →

Marketers are touting value more this holiday season with fixed prices and ongoing sales as inflation continues to make shopping more difficult for consumers this year.

Last month, for example, Walmart rolled out ads that claimed consumers could get “the same incredible feast for the same incredible price as last year” for holiday meals. Walmart isn’t alone in wanting to appeal to people with fixed pricing on some items amid rising costs. Canadian chain Pizza Pizza is taking a similar albeit more humorous approach, offering the chance for people to “lock in” a rate for their pizza delivery. And natural supplement manufacturer Now worked with ad agency Hanson Dodge to create a strategy to focus on value as inflation was emerging. These are just to name a few examples, of course. 

“We were aiming at savvy shoppers who appreciate a good value, and suspected that the ranks would grow if the inflationary trends being warned were to come to fruition,” Hanson Dodge president Stacey Boney said in an email. “So not a reaction to inflation, but a good position to be in when it occurred.” 

By focusing on the potential savings via fixed prices or sales, many of which are running longer than usual, marketers are hoping that consumers will spend as usual instead of reducing their spending due to inflation this year. Whether or not that will be the case, or if that focus on value will continue in the new year is yet to be determined.

“We’ve seen more advertisers addressing inflation in their ads in Q4, but it remains to be seen if that will continue into Q1 or is just a holiday message,” said Stacey Stewart, U.S. chief marketplace officer at UM, adding that it’s mostly affected messaging. “Inflation is a key topic these days — how to address it as a business and with customers — but other than keeping dollars flexible by using channels with historically better cancellation terms, we haven’t seen it impact where we are spending.”

That’s not to say it won’t eventually impact where clients are spending, as one media buyer noted that a potential client in a pitch asked about inflation’s effect on media this year with the intent of incorporating where they can save into planning their spend. Still, much of the inflation impact has been on messaging with value or sales, especially for clients that need short-term growth.

“In the DTC space we have to do everything we can to help our clients remain relevant, competitive and growing their business against the headwinds of consumer belt tightening,” said Scott McClure, vp and group creative director at Rain the Growth Agency, adding that one client has asked about value messaging and others have been running sales longer than usual. “Positioning against inflation when possible both meets the consumer where they are and is just good direct marketing, but it’s not possible for every industry or brand.”

While some caution against leaning on value amid inflation — one exec said that doing so can “erode” a brand as focusing on price can be a race to the bottom — others see an opportunity. Another creative agency exec noted that brands that back up value messaging with lower prices have a chance to sway consumers their way.

3 Questions with Katelyn Watson, CMO at Talkspace online therapy

Talk to me about the adoption of mental health in the workplace. How is that changing how Talkspace goes to market?

Our job is to drive awareness of Talkspace to all potential members. There’s all different levels of access. And that’s really what we want to communicate. It’s really bringing that coverage to the forefront in our messaging and making sure that people are aware that that’s an option. Certainly partnering with employers and making sure that whatever communication avenues they have available that we’re able to be part of that conversation.

How do you manage to stand out as more competitors come into the mental health space?

Once you get to a certain level of penetration within a market, you probably have enough influencers who have also used your product very authentically. Being able to tap into those people, educate them so that they’re talking about their own experience, but they’re also bringing the Talkspace value propositions into play, it really doubles as great advertising. But also word of mouth, at the same time. That’s a big one because it also allows us to open up some digital channels that we aren’t necessarily in quite yet. 

Talk to me about 2023 budgeting and planning amid a difficult to predict economy. 

The only thing I would add to that is one thing that I always tout, which is, as a marketer being best friends with your product leader. When you think about economic times, there’s always more juice to squeeze. And that is really how you do it. It’s by partnering with product and bringing that growth marketing angle to the product team to say, ‘Here are opportunities we’re seeing with our members. What can we actually build on the product side to get more from what we’re getting from our traffic?’ — Kimeko McCoy

By the numbers

At the height of the pandemic, marketers started taking a closer look at virtual events, taking the industry’s biggest affairs, like the Consumer Electronics Show and the South by Southwest festival, to a virtual stage. Some even predicted that the future of events would become a hybrid of online and in-person. As 2023 quickly approaches, new research from video experience cloud Kaltura offers insight into how marketers are thinking about virtual events in the new year. — Kimeko McCoy

  • 74% of marketers expressed that virtual events take the top spot for the most important aspect of their overall strategy.
  • In-person events still hold great value, with 63% of marketers stating they plan to host in-person events.
  • 44% of attendees expressed that networking is their top reason for attending in-person events.

Quote of the week

“If you’re a DTC brand, all of these big brand players are coming in and now you have more of a crowded marketplace. You have so much demand on these creators, and these creators are increasing their rates.”

— Vickie Segar, founder of influencer marketing agency Village Marketing, on the competition for influencers increasing the cost for brands.

What we’ve covered

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