Yes, it is true, the consensus is that we are in a recession.  But what experts haven’t said is precisely what this means, or rather, how will the current economy affect the individual.  As Michael Allison noted many journalists use loaded terms and metaphors to describe the current economic state, though much of this discussion is difficult for the untrained eye to decipher.  In fact, negativity seems to be the only message that is consistent across all media outlets.

Never fear, consumers are here!  In fact, some brands have taken to the current economic climate with ease.  It is the brands that provide a value beyond the tangible products sold that will continue to thrive.

picture-12 For instance, last Friday as I was cruising along the I5 corridor a sign for the Coach outlet caught my attention and I pulled off.  I had NO idea what was I was in store for.  The outlet had opened for the first time that morning and the checkout line was over an hour long.  As I stood in the door with my mom I couldn’t help but wonder how such purchasing power was possible in a ‘recession’.   We left the Coach store to wander around and found that every other store in the outlet mall complex was nearly empty.  Then I realized, it wasn’t the opening or the store itself, but the prestiege associated with Coach goods that drew in consumers like fireflies to a lamp at night. They came in swams and hovered for hours.

So, what does this teach us from a public relations standpoint?  Brand identity, the perceived level of quality and above all the customer opinion of a product, organization or company is increasingly important in a recession.  As consumers’ ability to buy decreases, it becomes increasingly important ot provide value beyond the initial purchase. As Marna, an elderly Spanish woman with snappy red shoes who stood behind me in line said, “I took off work becuase I knew that today was going to be a special day.”

Consumers are looking toward the future, searching for value.  So, from a public relations standpoint,  it is our job as PR students and practitioners to learn to create value, to create a level of prestige that stems beyond the initial purchase and into the future, to make people want to stand in a line with screaming babies and angry old ladies for over an hour to chase the thrill of the purchase.  Whether we are encouraging a busload of foreign travelers to spend $4000 each on handbags or recruiting volunteers for a non-profit we must be able to answer the “what’s in it for me” question not only for the client but for the consumer.  As my teacher Kelli Matthews always says, its the evaluation part of a plan that really matters.  The values that seem most obvious to brand identity creators may evade consumers entirely. picture-3


~ by kristaberlincourt on March 10, 2009.

One Response to “Recession?”

  1. Thanks for the link!

    Remember, it’s whatever value the campaign calls for. For instance, GM, Ford and Chrysler would be ill advised to try to present a sense of prestige. Right now, their task is to promote dependability, reliability and a sense that they are a source of solid employment for ordinary Americans and Canadians. Their executives learned that flying to DC in private jets is not appropriate from a PR standpoint.

    So, it’s whatever value means. For Coach, it’s luxury on the verge of affordability. For a car company, it’s reliability and jobs.


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