Value and Sustainability: A Tension in Consumer Behaviour?

17 Jul 2008|Added Value

Today’s financial uncertainty is creating a tension between sustainability and value as consumers are challenged to make uncomfortable trade-offs.

Added Value, the worldwide brand consultancy, believes that brands have a role to play in helping consumers by appreciating consumers’ desires to make the “right” sustainable choices at the “right” price.

“Brands need to redefine the value equation to include sustainability in a way that fits with their core proposition and builds on its equity. This is increasingly important in a sector like grocery where sustainable choices are increasingly expected and if not delivered, will dent the brand image by this perceived lack of value. Consumers are keen to embrace sustainable choices, but their principles are tested when they perceive the value to be too high. Those brands that achieve the right balance will be in a stronger position in today’s difficult trading climate,” say Marie Ridgley, Co Managing Director of Added Value, UK.

Added Value recommends brands follow three guiding principles:

Understanding the consumer context, or “Cultural Capital”
Consumers don’t live in a vacuum, their consumption and behaviour is affected by what is going on around them. As they come to terms with their options – consume less, demand more for less or make new and different choices – so brands need to be quick to respond.

Redefine value to incorporate sustainability
“Good value” has become culturally understood as ‘cheap’ or ‘low cost’. Added Value asserts that rather it is about a relative understanding of what you pay for versus what you get in return.

The value equation takes into account the brand experience or product benefits less any detractors that could fuel negativity, and the relationship with the price. Creating value with sustainability by drawing on the product benefits to detract from the higher price tag is a much harder task in the price-driven retail sector.

Research by Added Value among 1000 UK consumers indicates that a brand’s responsible behaviour is increasingly a driver of value. Sustainability issues can act as a benefit, but also by their absence, can constitute a detractor from value. Reframing what is valuable about the product or brand offers a new way to talk about value, and is especially pertinent in the context of sustainability.

Bridging the gap between sustainability and value
Brands are stepping up to the challenge of integrating sustainability into their value proposition. The key is to make this fit comfortably with the brand DNA so it feels seamless and relevant, rather than at odds with the familiar brand promise. “Understanding the real “value” of your brand is key,” concludes Ridgley.

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