Why we buy products related to place, people and the past

Current market trends suggest that many consumers are looking for products that are local, made by real people and traditional or that at least remind customers of their childhood. As digitization and globalization have made our social and professional lives more and more virtual, fast and mobile, more and more people feel that they have lost their emotional ties. Customers need to feel grounded, and they do so by purchasing products that connect them to the place, to the people, and to the past. Marketers can leverage these emotions by tailoring their marketing mix to strategically target customer segments with increased need for anchoring.

Current market trends suggest that many consumers are looking for products that are local, made by real people and traditional or that at least remind customers of their childhood.

We see it in the food sector, in the form of growing farmers’ markets, the growing demand for artisan bakery products, the locavore movement and the return to traditional grocery brands during the Covid-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, Etsy, the online marketplace for craft products, reported an impressive 81.9 million users and $ 10.3 billion in gross merchandise sales worldwide in 2020 (Etsy 2021). These trends are surprising when viewed against the background of globalization, digitization and modern society’s penchant for technology and innovation.

What is driving all this? In a recent paper, we argue that these trends stem from a growing consumer need to feel grounded. As digitization and globalization have made our social and professional lives more and more virtual, fast and mobile, more and more people feel that they have lost their emotional ties. Customers need to feel grounded, and they do so by purchasing products that connect them to the place, to the people, and to the past. For example, farmers’ markets offer produce from a well-defined location nearby, which is grown and sold by real people with whom customers can make a personal connection, and which has often been grown in a more traditional or traditional way. which are in a certain way traditional, heritage variety.

A survey we conducted among a panel of representative American consumers found that consumers whose work and day-to-day lives were most affected by megatrends such as digitization, urbanization and global change have a greater need for emotional anchoring. Panelists who scored high on this need often did a lot of office work on their computers, had higher socioeconomic status, strongly perceived that Covid-19 had put their lives in a state of flux, and lived in big cities.

These consumers were also more interested in purchasing products that connect them to their place, their people and their past. In an experiment we conducted, we found that participants were willing to pay up to 60% more for a bar of soap packaged as an independent craft brand than for a traditional industrial brand, as it made them feel more strong attachment to place, people, and past.

Feeling anchored has important consequences. In another survey, we found that participants who used local apples rather than non-local apples in baking pies reported feeling stronger, more secure, more stable, and better able to withstand adversity. Feeling grounded is like having a solid foundation that gives people strength and resilience.

Marketers can leverage these emotions by tailoring their marketing mix to strategically target customer segments with increased need for anchoring. Beyond communicating an independent brand story or emphasizing local origin, they can introduce the people behind their products, choose more traditional product and store designs, and use distribution channels. such as farmers’ markets to enable these customers to better connect to places, people and the past. behind the products.

For example, the Austrian grocery chain Billa has successfully positioned itself in recent years as a benchmark brand by facilitating connections with place, people and the past. In a recent national advertising campaign, Billa asked farmer-suppliers to take reminders, making them visible to their customers. Johnny Cash’s rendition of Gordon Lightfoot’s classic ‘If You Could Read My Mind’ provided the musical connection to the past, reinforcing the visuals and highlighting the tradition behind the local farmers who were succinctly referred to as ‘the people who keep us alive’ (“Wer uns erdet”). While it is difficult to draw causal inferences from observational data, the brand’s sales development in 2020 underscores the power of anchor-based marketing. Billa experienced the strongest increase in sales of all the banners of the REWE group to which Billa belongs: + 6.89%; and the emphasis on regional products has been identified as one of the main success factors by a recent group report. As Billa’s social media marketing manager pointed out, “Nothing builds us more than our own roots. “

Lush cosmetics are also an example of successful anchor marketing. In addition to handcrafted production as well as traditional store and packaging design, Lush gives a “face” to every producer by printing their products with a digital portrait illustrated by graphic designers with their first name. A former employee of Lush indicates a reason behind this strategy: “to create a bond between you and the person who made [the product]. “These efforts seem to be paying off, reflected in the brand’s annual sales of over £ 900million in the last year before the pandemic (2019), an increase of almost 300% from 2012. Our own research corroborates this relationship: Highlighting the person behind the product causally increased consumers’ willingness to pay for a given cookie type in an incentive-compatible experience by 27%.

Another interesting proof of concept comes from General Mills’ Oui by Yoplait, a premium French-style yogurt with clear links to the past: the yogurt is presented in a glass jar, with Yes and the specific flavor offered (eg strawberry) printed in handwritten font, alluding to Grandma’s time. Interestingly, recent research suggests that handwritten typefaces (p. DJB it’s me, Moon flower) alone can make products more personal and therefore increase sales. In a field experience reported in Journal of Consumer Research, customers of a chocolate factory were significantly more likely to buy chocolate when the packaging had handwriting (17%) compared to a handwritten font (3%). Yes by Yoplait was considered a “breakthrough innovation” by Nielsen and generated over US $ 100 million in first year sales for General Mills, although being in a declining category and therefore difficult.

Groundedness marketing therefore appears to be a tangible and practical tool for creating better performing product offerings. Our research suggests that anchor marketing could be particularly promising during the colder times of the year, when consumers show an increased effort to (re) connect to place, people, and the past.


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