Brands vs. Inflation — A Survival Guide

Global supply chains are broken, commodities are becoming more expensive, and fears of inflation are challenging high hopes for the post-pandemic economy. Many companies are struggling to meet the rising demand for products across categories (from poultry to plastics), having slowed production lines, cut back on logistics spending, and furloughed employees due to COVID-19. U.S prices are now climbing at the fastest rate since 2008, and the announcement of a 4.2% hike in the Consumer Price Index this month blew expectations and rattled stock markets. A record number of unfilled jobs only complicates the situation. 

Our extensive research on the world’s most resilient brands determined that the leading driver of brand longevity is product — including product quality, delivery, unique value proposition, and price. But when all of these are affected by economic forces beyond marketers’ control, a true test of brand resilience is at play. What can marketers do today to manage a situation where rising prices, and supply chain disruptions, threaten their brands’ most valuable asset? 

In our national consumer survey with the Harris Poll, one-third of respondents cited quality products or services as contributing to brand longevity, making it the single most selected attribute. But there were nearly as many who also cited creativity, reputation, and consistent messaging as key contributing factors. 

All of these attributes are interrelated, and they offer the key to ensuring brand success through a potential crisis of inflation. 

Product quality and reliability are the seeds that build positive brand reputations. Our research shows that brands that solidify their reputations for reliability and quality earn the most cross-generational appeal, and stand the test of time. Therefore, brands need to ensure they do not sacrifice quality in order to compensate for supply-chain disruptions, or else they will put their reputations on the line. 

But if brands face the problem of inflation — and don’t sacrifice their product quality for affordability — they will inevitably have to keep up with rising costs and increase product and service prices. 

In order to overcome this hurdle, they must resort to creativity to maintain their reputation for quality and to provide consumers with new reasons to love their products. Furthermore, omnichannel marketing and targeted advertising can deliver consistent messaging that communicates key product strengths and assures consumers that their products will continue to provide value — no matter the circumstances. Public relations should also be leveraged to extend these communications to the media, and to protect brands’ reputations in the face of disruption.

In a world where vast global supply chains are overstressed, and where increasing consumer demand has the power to destabilize economies, product quality and creativity could also pave the way for sustainable alternatives to an economy based on fast fashion and turnkey mass production. If marketers invest in these two brand attributes, and prioritize them above any other, they can ensure their brands’ longevity while offering high-value, sustainable products that generate less waste, are more locally sourced, and are less likely to be affected by shifting economic trends, recessions, and crises of inflation. 

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