Brand Loyalty Shifting During Crisis

by Kevin Burton

   Looked outside and saw a yellow plastic bag in the driveway Sunday.

   Oh Boy!  Hope we got some coupons!

   In ordinary times coupons, while certainly welcome, are not a cause for celebration. But these aren’t ordinary times. And, the changing times can be measured in part by the coupons that companies make available.

   Some weeks those bags from the local newspaper contain coupons, sometimes not. This time it did.

   If I find four or five coupons I want to use, that’s a pretty good week.  I almost never buy anything just because there is a coupon for it.

   Clipping coupons has always felt like a middle-class comfort to me, a vote of confidence in the system. Like maybe that “invisible hand” made famous by Scottish economist Adam Smith, clutches a fistful of coupons.

   So within the pages of coupons we got was one page featuring two of my preferred brands. Half of the page was devoted to Quilted Northern bathroom tissue and half to Brawny paper towels. I am accustomed to seeing these brands. We usually have multiple coupons for both.  

   Only this time there were no actual coupons for either. Just two big ole pictures reminding people that the product is out there.

   And that, being interpreted means, “Gotcha!”

   These products are in such high demand that there is no need just now to provide an inducement to purchase.  People are fighting over these things.

   Gotta love capitalism. Those non-coupons made me smile at the same time they didn’t quite hit me the right way.  It’s like a pretty woman in a dress that doesn’t suit her. Like, capitalism, that’s not your best look, treating consumers like that in a pandemic.

   It might be enough to get me to change brands.  Brand loyalty is sort of out the window right now anyway.  If you clip coupons you’re probably saving the ones for cleaning and paper products regardless of brand.

   Sixty-five percent of US consumers have tried new brands since stay-at-home orders became the norm, according to a study by AlixPartners, reported in Food Business News.

   Availability and price are driving this according to the study. Private label brands, which often have a lower unit cost, are gaining market share. The trend applies to products across the board, including pasta, dairy, meat, canned and frozen foods, bread and baked goods.   

   An AlixPartners spokesman says consumers are indicating they plan to stay with their new brands.

   In a similar survey by Shopkick, only 14 percent of respondents said they will not make a purchase unless their preferred brand is available.  This was reported on fooddive.com.

   So I see a coupon for Right Guard deodorant.  I wonder if I should save the coupon but decide against it.  I think it’s safe to stay with Speed Stick. I haven’t noticed any shortages of deodorant on the shelves in local stores during the virus crisis.

   More evidence that quarantine stinks.

   The largest local grocery store near me has a service where you can order products online then go to the store and pick them up. A worker will load the products into your trunk. 

   The first time we tried this service we used some coupons, but the worker was sore displeased about having to deal with them.  It meant an extra trip for her. In retrospect, since handing her the coupons meant an extra human contact for us, it wasn’t worth it.

   Maybe a bag of coupons in the driveway isn’t such a grand sight after all. 

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