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Key Takeaways

Key Takeaways


Keep it real

There’s rising resistance to overly photoshopped imagery and depictions of “perfect” bodies living “perfect” lives, as consumers seek out brands that provide an authentic depiction of products and daily reality. Social media star Jade Tuncdoruk has rapidly achieved a huge following with her alternative Instagram feed featuring makeup-free selfies and candid videos. Brands appreciating the value of authenticity include Bond’s, which has advertised using plus-size models and women in non-traditional roles to promote “women supporting women”. And Sportsgirl’s #BeThatGirl focuses on sisterhood and diversity, with stories not of beauty but of real life.


Little treats are hitting the spot

Budget-conscious consumers on the lookout for inexpensive ways to indulge are driving a rise in sales of premium products such as ice-cream. Growing demand for affordable luxuries that create the feelgood factor without hurting the bank balance is creating opportunities for brands to offer new products at premium prices. This is great news for consumers, who have more choice than ever before, but for brands there’s a potential downside: the more choice there is within a category intensifies the struggle for visibility.


Do you remember the one about …

Brands looking to make a deep impression on consumers have some stiff competition in that people have very long memories, and tend to think that even the ads were better in the old days. Kantar’s recent study on Australia’s favourite ads identified a widespread sense that advertising today lacks relevance; most people’s favourite ads of all time were from long ago. Catchy taglines, such as “Not happy, Jan”, rated many mentions, along with memorable music, like “I still call Australia home”, for Qantas. Humour gives brands a massive boost when it comes to making a lasting impression, with the majority of respondents identifying an ad they found funny as their favourite. And then there’s dogs. Dogs chasing postmen, dogs using remote controls, dogs and toilet paper, and speaking dogs that fall off the back of utes. It’s well worth remembering that Australians clearly love a funny dog ad.


Move beyond gender balance

Australia is one of the few countries that allows people to identify themselves as “X” rather than having to opt for either male or female, and brands are increasingly thinking about “ungendering” their ads, challenging ideas about the relevance of gender and targeting. Barbie dolls, for instance, are being advertised as toys for boys as well as girls, and Harley Davidson is not just targeting men, its traditional audience. The rewriting of gender roles – and, in many spheres, of gender itself – should give all brands pause for thought.


Distribution is being disrupted

Traditional ways of getting products from manufacturers to consumers are being transformed by fresh approaches to distribution, and by changing consumer attitudes towards ownership. The sharing economy is part of this – the rise of Airbnb and BMW car-sharing schemes, for instance. Subscription-driven direct-to-consumer services, such as underwear brands Thinx and StepOne and Koala the mattress provider, are another incarnation of this shift. Disruptive distribution can affect all categories; Australia’s own Power Ledger is renewable energy trading business, built on blockchain, allowing users to sell energy back to the grid.


Retail is becoming less about buying

It’s becoming more about a great experience – and a different experience than can be had online. Retailers realise that if shoppers want convenience, they’re often better off buying digitally, so they’re rethinking the role of physical stores as places to see and try products, often augmented by technological tools such as “magic mirrors” – screens that allow shoppers to virtually try items before they buy. But not all great retail is futuristic. Dan Murphy’s uses appealing store layouts, a carefully curated range and friendly staff to drive footfall, and Bunnings’ authenticity, knowledgeable staff, wide assortment and convenient parking are all part of a great retail experience.


Just popping to the shops (again)

The weekly supermarket trip to fill up the fridge – and the freezer – has for many households been a regular fixture in the diary for years. Now, though, more than half of Australian grocery shoppers visit a supermarket more than once a week, and there’s a growing minority who shop for groceries every day. This is a phenomenon seen in other advanced economies, particularly in cities, where space for storing a week’s shopping is limited, and rising numbers of convenience stores make it easier to shop for just a day or two’s meals. Both of Australia’s grocery giants, Woolworths and Coles, are rolling out small-format, convenience-focused stores in metro areas. Grocery shopping is gradually moving online in Australia, after a fairly slow start due to the challenge of delivering across an urban sprawl.


Brands need to stand for something

The need for brands to have a purpose (other than generating returns for shareholders) is something that businesses have increasingly come to realise. Many have linked their mission to an environmental concern, which can be highly effective. But there are many more ways to have a worthy purpose beyond being green. Covergirl, for instance, recently launched the #letgirlsbegirls initiative to help stop the over-sexualisation of young girls. #letgirlsbegirls is about encouraging girls to enjoy their childhood rather than be in a rush to grow up. The idea is to help girls see makeup as fun, not as a way to fix their flaws.


Quicker isn’t always better

Australians are among the biggest users of self-checkout terminals in stores, with around 90 percent of shoppers saying they’ve tried them. But it’s not always a happy experience, with many shoppers complaining that shopping is becoming impersonal without a friendly chat at the checkout, and that businesses are cutting what used to be important first jobs for young people and students. There’s some evidence, too, that businesses don’t always save money by installing the terminals, once they’ve factored in increased theft and loss of customer loyalty. It’s a timely reminder that technology can augment the shopping experience, but that more tech isn’t always a better solution.


Honey, they shrunk the Freddos!

Food producers facing pressures due to drought and the rising cost of raw materials have taken to “trimming” the size of products and selling them at the same price as the originals in order to stay profitable. Savvy shoppers are not amused, however. There’s a sense of being cheated to discover that Freddo frogs are now 12g instead of 15g, and Smiths chips have shrunk from a 200g pack to 160g. “Shrinkflation” feels like being ripped off when it’s poorly communicated (or hidden in the hope that no one will notice). A more transparent approach to matching pack sizes with a price that works for all parties is likely to get a better reception from consumers looking for brands they can trust.


Nostalgia – it’s back!

This is a trend that runs deeper than reminiscing about the days when the snacks were all bigger. It’s about Australians embracing their inner child, and hankering for the brands that put a smile on their faces as kids or teenagers. Casio digital watches have been making a comeback, Nintendo’s re-released mini game consoles from the 1980s have been selling faster than they can make them. Amazon reports a surge in Australian sales of 90s-era clothing brands, such as Tommy Hilfiger and Levi’s, and there’s rising demand for big kids’ toys, such as Lego kits aimed at adults, as well as adult interest in superhero movies and merchandise.


Diners are watching their waistlines

Far from living out the Bondi beach stereotype, two-thirds (67 percent) of Australian adults are either overweight or obese. Those struggling to get down to a healthy weight are looking at labels to help them reduce their calorie intake. The state of Victoria in 2018 introduced food labelling rules that bring it into line with other states, requiring take-away chains to provide kilojoule labelling on products that are standard across all stores. When the requirement was introduced in New South Wales, it led to a 15 percent decrease in the number of kilojoules people were ordering. Food and drink brands should regard clear labelling as a helpful service to consumers rather than an obligation. There are opportunities for “functional foods” and those that offer healthy indulgence; witness the rise of Halo Top ice-cream, Messy Monkey and Yo Pro.


Privacy is more than a requirement

Thanks to some high-profile data breaches in the past year, consumers are more keenly aware than ever of the volume and depth of data that businesses collect about them. This means two things for brands: first, it’s important to create a fair deal for consumers, so if you want their data, provide something valuable in return. Second, treat that data with care and explain – using plain English rather than jargon-heavy fine print – how it will be used. Consumers want to be part of the privacy conversation.


Moments really matter

There are many opportunities for brands to find a way into people’s lives, even if an individual already has a preferred brand in their category, by focusing on distinct moments of consumption. In the coffee category, for example, a household might opt for a brand that broadly meets the needs of everyone in the house for their breakfast coffee. But for a mid-morning pick-me-up or drink in the office, individuals might consider something that meets their own unique preferences, and when sharing a coffee with friends, there could be a different brand of choice. Brands need to choose their moments.


Rethink what’s rubbish

Environmental concerns are now mainstream, and consumers are open to brands doing smart things to reduce power consumption, packaging and waste. One clever idea to tackle the fact that nearly half of Australian-grown fruit and vegetables is rejected by supermarkets due to imperfections is “Juice For Good”. This project, by ForPurposeCo, embraces this “ugly” fruit – or the ugly oranges, at least – and enables people to buy freshly made juice from a vending machine that squeezed imperfect oranges on demand. Harris Farm’s “Imperfect Picks” and Woolworths’ “Odd Bunch” also draw on a growing intolerance of good food going to waste.


Let’s get physical

Whether driven by desire to look good in selfies or awareness of the nation’s expanding waistlines, Australians are spending big on brands and products that help them look and feel fantastic. Workout gear, blenders, healthy snacks and nuts are all popular buys at the moment. This is a trend that applies to both men and women; six out of the top 10 best-selling beauty products on Amazon in Australia are for men. The flipside of this trend is bad news for alcohol brands, with consumption at a 55-year low. Around 22 percent of adults don’t drink at all, and others are cutting back – partly out of concern for their health but also because of the expense.


Talk to the animals

There’s a good reason why so many people say that advertisements featuring dogs are their all-time favourites: this is a nation of huge animal lovers. Nearly two-thirds of Australian households have a dog, cat or other animal friend. In fact, more people share their home with a pet than share it with a child. This is great news, clearly, for those in the pet food, accessories and insurance businesses. But understanding the bond between consumers and their pets can bring indirect benefits for brands in other sectors, by better appreciating their lifestyles and emotional priorities.


Appeal to people’s generosity

There’s a vast reservoir of kindness out there. Around 30 percent of Australians over 15 years old regularly carry out voluntary work through an organised charity or other group. There’s a slightly higher propensity to volunteer among people living outside capital cities, but even in the major cities, the rate is still in the high 20s. Women are slightly more likely to be regular volunteers than men, and the wealthier people are, the more likely it is that they’re doing unpaid work to help others. What this reveals is not just that Aussies are generous with their time, but also what they care about. Sports-related volunteering is the most popular in terms of hours of involvement, followed by religious, then welfare and community work, and educational activity.


Cash is falling out of fashion

Australians have embraced payment cards, digital and mobile banking, to the extent that only around a third of payments are now made with cash. Credit and debit cards account for the majority of payments made around the country, and two-thirds of those are made with a contactless “tap”. Cheques are on the brink of obsolescence, accounting for less than 1 percent of all payments. While around a quarter of people still withdraw cash from their bank account each week, the number of people moving to payment via mobile phone is growing, so the use of cash is expected to shrink further.


Watch your back

Some call it looking sideways; others say look over your shoulder. We say that in the current climate, fresh competition can come from anywhere, so keep your eyes peeled and ears to the ground. Much of the western world is still reeling from the fact that a one-time online bookseller is now competing with century-old supermarket brands, as well as department stores and specialist retailers. In the contest for consumers’ time, attention and money, brands need to think as broadly as their target audience does. Beer brands compete not just with other beers but with other alcoholic drinks, soft drinks, smoothies and even water. Retail brands are competing for leisure time that might otherwise be spent at a sports or cultural event, taking exercise, meeting friends for a meal or watching a box set. Standing out therefore means being outstanding in a far broader “category” than you might imagine.