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Personas in inflation

In times of high inflation, households and companies alike have to tighten their belts. What this means for working with personas.


German market research institutes are registering rising demand for seminars and studies on the subject of inflation and at the same time are noticing that companies' budgets for market research and marketing in general are not as loose as before. Saving money in bad times is the first obvious thing to do. So is starting with what is supposedly dispensable.

But the most obvious solution is not always the best one. Because when everyone has to save, it is not enough to save as well. If you want to sell something in such times, you either have to have a product that no one can do without, even in the worst inflation, such as bread. Or you have to remind consumers through very good marketing in order to get a piece of the ever-shrinking pie.

A broad-based study by the consulting firm Hypothesis Group was able to identify three types of people who think, react and buy differently during times of inflation. While these three may need the same product, they are reached in different ways:

  • Opportunists
    These people are described in the study as disciplined and optimistic. Despite the challenges of inflation, they don't feel a loss of control. They restrict their spending across the board, but are ultimately confident that everything will work out for the better. They try to save everywhere and are therefore very open to bargains. If you want to sell your product to them, you should focus your marketing on what a great opportunity the product offers at this particular time.
  • Minimizer
    This group notices the higher prices, like everyone else, but is not deterred by them. People in this group believe that because of all their work, they have the right to treat themselves. They are most likely to save on clothing and at the supermarket, but not on travel, fun, restaurants, etc. In marketing terms, you reach them with messages about enjoyment and pleasure, but not with doomsday scenarios.
  • Corporation Blamer
    This group has been hit very hard by inflation and has to cut back in all areas of life, even basic ones. This makes them angry, worried and vulnerable. They take inflation personally and blame their plight on corporations, which they believe are trying to enrich themselves by raising prices. Blamers inevitably have to cut corners everywhere. Marketing that alludes to enjoyment and pleasure might therefore be received with bitterness by them. They are most likely to be reached with messages about how a product makes their lives easier and what concrete benefits it brings them.

Inflation is of extreme importance to consumers and, more than the other recent crises, will lead to significant changes in consumer and consumer behavior, according to Ralf Ganzenmüller, CEO of Ipsos Germany.

In order for a company to react correctly and thus come through the crisis in good shape, it is essential to know what makes its own customers "tick" and how many different inflation types there are in its customer base - or where there may even be untapped customer groups that can be convinced with a clever approach despite inflation. To achieve this, the company must know exactly which personas their customers represent. Where their fears lie, where they (have to) severely restrict themselves, or where they may even display a "now is the time" attitude.
Companies that map their customers with data-based personas, even in inflation, can set themselves apart from the competition:

  • Continue to develop or increase focus on products that are in high demand due to the crisis situation.
  • Put fewer resources into products/divisions that are in less demand.
  • Pick up every inflation type among your own clientele on the right channel with the right message: Frustrated and worried people with lots of worries need a different approach than people who "want to treat themselves" precisely because of the bad situation and can (still) do so. Targeting is the magic word here.
    Example: Companies need to communicate to people with existential worries that they are not their enemy. With clever storytelling on the topic of savings tips, well-marketed larger package sizes or inexpensive and simple recipes on the package, you not only win over this group, but can also score points with bargain hunters.

data-driven personas may seem at first glance to be an investment that many companies shy away from in the face of inflation. But it is precisely these investments that can make the difference between a company coping well with inflation or drowning in the general worrying noise.

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