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Cost-of-Living Crisis Strategies: Bargain-Hunting Romance and Supermarket Lotteries


After M&C Saatchi London conducted a survey with 50 people over the course of February, chief strategy officer Sophie Lewis talks to LBB’s Zoe Antonov about the unique and intimate insights that came up

Cost-of-Living Crisis Strategies: Bargain-Hunting Romance and Supermarket Lotteries

“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away… I knew we needed better understanding of the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on people’s feelings and behaviours.” This is what Sophie Lewis, chief strategy officer at M&C Saatchi London says about their latest research dubbed ‘On the Money’ that takes an extra close look on what people have actually changed in the ways they go about their lives to navigate the financial crisis, and how can that help brands go with the flow. Although we are all aware that different consumers are experiencing the crisis in a plethora of ways, the teams at M&C Saatchi wanted to dig into that insight and uncover the unique and unexpected things people across the UK are doing to cope.

The agency used WhatsApp to run a daily panel of 50 nationally representative people, asking them two questions per weekday about the changes they’re making in their buying, socialising and everyday habits. The questions covered anything, from people’s usage of loyalty cards, to seasonal purchases, to alcohol consumption. Overseen by Sophie, the research culminated in 20 unique insights that reveal some quirks that people have obtained during the hardships of winter.

“I really wanted something living and breathing, something in real time and something that gave us granularity and detail, as opposed to just broad brushstrokes,” she says about the approach to the research. “We had used WhatsApp research before, but not in an ongoing way. And once we’d chatted to Further Afield, our recruiters, in time honoured fashion, they made it happen in about five minutes.” The 50 participants had time by the evening of that working day to respond to the two questions, with one being about how they were feeling and the other about things that they are doing.

According to Sophie, the usage of WhatsApp on an ongoing basis allowed M&C Saatchi to tap into how people are coping in real time, and change their questions according to the situation. “It allowed us to adapt, change and add in questions as we went.” The study ran for the whole month of February and Sophie explains that the team wanted to be specific about certain categories and behaviours. “We wanted to get down into the nitty gritty of some more ‘intimate’ questions around how people were adjusting their behaviour. We asked them about subjects as wide ranging as how they bought groceries to their sex and love lives.”

Through the 20 insights, a whole lot was revealed, such as the importance of pets and how they take priority over some other activities, the way people are now trying to get the most out of happy hour when out for drinks, and how mystery holidays are what airlines should tap into this summer. The one most surprising revelation for Sophie, however, was the things that people nowadays count as ‘essential’ for their mental health. She names only a handful of the activities that are reportedly today’s building blocks of mental stability - “Getting your nails done. Going out. Seeing your friends. Walking. Beauty products and treatments. Quality fresh food.” Similarly, she didn’t expect to find out that a lot of people, despite the crisis, are still maintaining their gym memberships (the same cannot be said for their streaming platform subscriptions). Not only this, but people are working out with friends more than ever, counting fitness as socialising - two birds with one stone. Brands should be looking into the insight and perhaps trying to add a social element to the activity of working out. Or maybe at home workout equipment brands are missing out by not giving people the option to connect with others in their area?

So, there you have it - if you contribute to mental health and wellness, you’re in. “By the way, I saw a poster campaign for a jewellery brand at the weekend which said: ‘It’s not jewellery, it’s self-care’. So that’s how tangential things are getting,” says Sophie.

Looking towards the trends of the summer, Sophie is hopeful but vigilant. “We all want some warmth from the sun. Not just because it feels good and for vitamin D, but because it means our heating bills will go down. Winter is pretty miserable anyway. This one has been brutal.” She adds, “But for people struggling with kids, the summer holidays loom large. So, it’s swings and roundabouts. I hope we’ll see brands offering lots of help with feeding kids over the summer.” One of the findings of the survey actually asked participants what they expect to see from supermarket loyalty cards and a new perk they might benefit from and a ‘supermarket lottery’ came up more than once! 

This, as Sophie explains it, is called the ‘surprise and delight’ strategy. Similar to the Pret a Manger free coffee insight, but supercharged for 2023. Every hundredth (or a random number) of customer gets their shopping basket or trolley free. While some say they do it already, Sophie says she’s never seen it or heard of anybody experiencing it.

Sophie says that some brands actually asked M&C Saatchi to add specific questions, which they eventually did. “We talked about implications and opportunities coming out of our findings,” she says. “We’ve created a wrap up of the project which is available to anyone who is interested, and I’ve been out here talking about it a lot.” The agency is also hosting a panel on April 26th to present the findings. If you’re a brand that is looking to tap into what is going through people’s heads, be sure to be there.

Cheaper love and dating also came up in the research, so I couldn’t help but wonder if we might see some smart collaborations between dating apps and certain restaurant chains or activities centres across the country. “Yes,” Sophie is categorical. “I can’t see why a restaurant chain like Nando’s or Pizza Express wouldn’t partner with Bumble or Tinder. You give them a discount off your bill, they meet in your restaurant. You drive football.” And although the survey proved that a lot of love birds have recently ditched Valentine’s Day for more important holidays to save, singletons might still benefit from those kinds of innovative collaborations.

Another interesting piece of information that was unearthed through the research is that a lot of people are betting on the Lotto nowadays - a seemingly illogical and fruitless response to the crisis. So what’s the psychology behind it? “It could be you,” reminds Sophie. “It’s not a rational response. The probability of winning the lottery is so tiny, it’s never based on logic. But it gives you that moment of imagining ‘what if’ - it’s low cost, it’s a singular event (versus ongoing games and races). You ‘invest’ a couple of quid, you might become a millionaire. It’s that simple. That kind of thing is just more appealing right now.”

Overall, Sophie’s biggest hopes coming out of the research is that “brands know their place” and think more about the role they play in people’s lives. “Brands need to realise that generally speaking, they’re not that important to people, but they can still find their place, whether that’s making life more fun or providing a little comfort.” Her best advice? “Most brands won’t change the world, but they might make it a little bit better, even if it’s just for a moment.”

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M&C Saatchi London, Tue, 11 Apr 2023 10:53:32 GMT