Shrinkflation: Pay more get less
14th September 2017
Our world has become a sea of brands from the food and clothes we buy to the charities we donate to, we are a nation of label collectors, all adopting a certain formula of brands that we most relate to and seem the norm, possibly elevating our status in our social groups. These preferences therefore create an emotional connection, making us passionate about our purchases, eager to extend our opinion which in turn is priceless to companies that process this data to perfect their products to make a deeper connection and loyalty with their consumers. However although this passion is a positive to the data and loyalty side of a brand it can also work both ways.
A phrase that has caused much controversy in the media recently is ‘shrinkflation.’ The term refers to how our favourite brands products are reducing in size and maintaining or going up in price, essentially meaning we are paying more for less.
Here’s a run down of the studio’s top 5 ‘shrinkflation’ frustrations:
1. Mars bar
Reduced from 58 to 51 grams
One of the most controversial, mainly for its gappy appearance.
Reduced from 400 to 360g. Shrunk by 12% in size.
3. Cadbury’s Dairy Milk bar
Cadbury’s of late have been renovating many aspects of their full product range. We saw Cadbury’s Roses shapes change last year and now it seems the same treatment has been pulled over into the bar range. However sneakily, although the new bubble shape may seem nice, it actually reduces the chocolate by 14%.
The favourite nutty creme confection will now be known as the ‘The Whip’ after the Brexit referendum which sees the chocolate remove the walnut from its new lines.
5. Andrex Toilet Tissue
Reduced from 221 to 200 sheets per roll.
Many consumers understandably see this as fraud, a controversy against their many years of loyalty to their favourite brands. Some have even speculated that Brexit may be a big indicator of price increase but with so many companies jumping on the bandwagon are we really that outraged by this? It’s understandable that we may feel let down by these companies, almost sneakily reducing their packaging to save a few extra pennies but looking at the wider picture could there be alternate reasons why this has happened?
3 reasons why brands are decreasing their packaging
Wasteful packaging and quantity sales such as ‘2 for 1 deals’ are major issues in the environmental arena, endorsing consumers to buy more than they would actually use, therefore creating waste and pollution. More than ever before companies are being penalised by the growing ‘green brand,’ where brands potentially may lose consumers who value companies that care about our world such as the millennial generation. This could be a solid reason why companies are rethinking their product sizes.
Another issue reflecting our ever growing convenience culture, having everything to hand from fast food to social media, is obesity. Our world may be changing and seem to improve our lives from day to day but this may not entirely be good for our health. These ‘2 for 1’ deals again persuade us to buy more than we really need which in turn makes us bigger convenience consumers than ever before. Possibly another sub reason for companies looking to reduce their product in hope of tackling this.
Just as our wages and rent goes up year by year so do the costs of product production for our brands, so it’s understandable, if a little distasteful, that our brands will need to cut costs somewhere to keep up with the demanding monetary increases.
3 things consumers value today
We live in a world full of opinion, making it a great time for customer feedback and really connecting whether negatively or positively with our audience, learning and developing products to attract the masses. However, for brands to excel they need to remember that changes like this need to be delicate, as although we are adaptable, we still need a changeover period to get used to the idea, aligning with many other values that need to be right for us to accept this change. Such values as:
1. Quality before quantity
Many marketeers believe that a consumer’s loyalty is price led, constantly looking for the most economically viable options to make our buying decision, but is this really the case in this day and age? Although price is definitely a big player, it definitely isn’t the only contender. Our brands depend on our loyalty, our opinion and emotional connection to flourish, making us a little irrational and sometimes unpredictable when it comes to our purchases, which probably explains the anger at the product reduction and price increase of this ‘shrinkflation.’ But will this really stop us buying these products?
In a world that is heavily led by a culture of renters, where even the most expensive products and services are now more attainable than ever, for anyone can own a Mercedes, an iPhone or sign up to a mortgage more than ever before, cost has taken a back step to brand loyalty and quality. We see this with the likes of Waitrose over the past 10 years, where a lot of work has been put in to make the brand more sociable and trusted from their friendly and conscientious staff to the attainable ‘Essentials’ range, making quality food and shopping experiences more available. However although these prices may seem cheaper than the brand’s ‘normal’ ranges, the products are still expensive compared to other supermarkets, yet we still continue to buy as we subconsciously believe that paying a little extra will get us more. So although we may dislike this reduction the majority of us will undoubtedly get over it, as we all still love our brands and the products for the taste, the packaging, the nostalgia and the quality they provide us.
2. We like what we like
Remembering back to my childhood, my parents had particular favourites when it came to brands, not considering for instance any other beans manufacturer other than Heinz, stating that there just isn’t any better product out there. In turn as you would expect, I myself have now adopted similar brand followings, but don’t get me wrong we all love a good bargain but must admit that sometimes the brand excels our buying decision above the monetary incentive and why? From the trust we have of our favourite brands that they will maintain and deliver the same quality of product we have all come to love. The most emotional annoyance recently has got to be the sudden Cadbury’s chocolate recipe change, outraging the nation of chocolate lovers, especially since Cadbury’s heritage goes back to 1824 in Birmingham, British through and through, frustrating audiences that the British brand has been bought out by an American confectioner and therefore changed the long loved recipe for that market opposed to the loyal Brits. This recipe issue also seemed to rock the nation more than the ‘shrinkflation’ of the egg decrease from 5 to 6, presenting the quality of the product as a bigger turn off than the number of eggs you get in a pack.
We are emotional creatures at heart and when brands choose to connect with us this way they must understand that emotional connections are delicate and therefore need to be trust worthy and honest. Being open about upcoming product changes will only make consumers feel part of the brand family, maintaining the loyalty with such changes once the dust has settled.
The subject matter is obviously a controversial one and is still a raw area, but effectively ‘shrinkflation’ has become a sort of trend in itself, although negative in definition, it still has gone viral enough to be talked about this much and you kind of have to admire it to some extent for the marketing catalyst it’s become. We will all have our own views on what ‘shrinkflation’ really means to each of us and the frustration will differ from person to person but on a general note I think deep down we are a little miffed that we were left out of the loop, like a frustrated parent, we’re not angry just disappointed. Brands have definitely lost an element of trust from consumers and with the whole sneaky approach to the nation’s favourites, it will never go down well. Will it really stop us buying these products however? Possibly to a few but generally most of us will still continue to purchase from these brands, maybe just logging a metaphorical ‘strike’ in our minds.
What do you think of shrinkflation?