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This article was prepared for the October 24, 2001
edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Post-September 11: Consumer Priorities Shift
America Online has just started promoting its new
7.0 by giving away seven trips to New Zealand. This could be a bad
behavior strongly suggests that offering air travel as a grand prize
is not the incentive it was just a few short weeks ago.
Lustenader is executive vice president, strategic services, of the
DVC Group, a marketing communications firm with headquarters in
Part of 1,250-person DVC Worldwide, the group specializes in
advertising. It recently supplied questions for a Harris Interactive
poll of 2,000 consumers, which probed their attitudes and sought
on their priorities in what Lustenader says is an unprecedented time
in American history. Asked if he sees any parallels, the marketing
pro, says "In my lifetime, no."
Lustenader speaks on "Consumer Trends Since September 11,"
at a meeting of the Public Relations Society of America, New Jersey
Chapter, on Tuesday, October 30, at 11:30 a.m. at the Madison Hotel
in Convent Station.
speaks on political trends. Call 973-984-6184.
Lustenader, a Dartmouth graduate (Class of 1966), who holds an MBA
from Cornell, has been in marketing for his entire career, and with
DVC for 15 years. DVC does behavioral marketing, which means that
it creates promotions through which consumers interact with a product,
whether it be beer or a life-saving drug.
When Labatt wanted to market its beer to young adults, the company
decided to advertise its Rolling Rock brand through a concert in
Pennsylvania. DVC’s job was to bring non-local potential consumers
into the picture. It did so by creating a website for the concert,
selling tickets through it, and using the website to broadcast the
When Sheering Oncology wanted to increase patient compliance with
the regime for Intron-A, its drug used to treat malignant melanoma,
DVC set up a program called Crossing Bridges, through which the
receives help in sticking with the drug, whose side effects are often
substantial, and unpleasant. There is a 24-hour hot line manned by
nurses to answer the patient’s questions, and another hot line to
connect the patient with those who have already completed the
And DVC mails out little incentives once a month, maybe coupons for
Gatorade to slack the thirst the drug induces or a Blockbuster coupons
to ease the hours some patients must spent at home because of fatigue.
Family, employer, friends, doctor, and HMO are also included, and
given, among other things, help in answering the patient’s questions
and reacting positively to his struggle with cancer.
Like other marketers, DVC needs to be tuned into what consumers crave
at any given moment, whether it be entertainment at a rock fest or
encouragement in fighting a disease. Some of the things consumers
crave remain the same after September 11, but many have changed, and
quite dramatically. Lustenader suggests that marketers who are aware
of these changes not only will be successful in selling their
but may even play a role in the nation’s psychic recovery. In times
of national crisis, marketers tend to pull back, but Lustenader says
that is exactly the wrong thing to do. "Embrace consumers,"
he says. "Consumers are looking to be embraced."
The embrace may need to be different, though, because consumers’
have shifted. Here is a look at how Americans answered the questions
DVC put on Harris’ poll, which was conducted between October 3 and
they would be much less likely to watch reality TV programs. "They
have enough reality on the news," comments Lustenader.
much less likely to plan an air travel vacation. Twenty-four percent
said they would be less likely to enter a sweepstake if the prize
was a trip. "They used to offer trips to Europe as a grand
says Lustenader. Something else may need to be found to place atop
the giveaway pyramid.
less likely to shop for a new car. Here we see the effects of an
slowdown along with the uncertainly that burst upon us on September
11, and that has just kept coming ever since. Manufacturers of all
big ticket items, not just cars, need to be sensitive to this double
whammy. Lustenader says the auto manufacturers’ financing incentives
— zero percent interest in many cases — was a good idea from
a marketing perspective.
are less likely to go to a bar with friends. This, says Lustenader,
ties in with a finding that consumers want to cocoon, to entertain
more at home. Twenty-one percent said they are more likely to
more at home, and 18 percent said they plan to prepare big,
hypothesis was that people would want to stay at home," says
But no, "they want to socialize," he says. "They want
normalcy in their lives." For many consumers, and especially,
the survey finds, for women, that means lots of time at the mall.
says Lustenader, "would be much more likely to buy a product
a portion went to relief." Philanthropy has gotten much stronger,
he says, especially in families with children. This impulse to give
extends beyond the relief effort, he says, suggesting that using a
charity tie-in could benefit businesses, whether or not that charity
is directly related to helping victims of the terror attacks.
has been a groundswell," he says. "People are more interested
in doing something that has a positive effect."
they are reevaluating their finances. "They’re more attentive
to savings," says Lustenader. In fact, 28 percent said they will
save a larger percentage of their income, and 21 percent said they
will use more coupons.
Parents, especially moms, said they are now much more likely to screen
their kids’ TV watching, possibly to screen out news images that the
children could find disturbing. They are keeping a closer eye on the
websites their kids visit, too.
are much more concerned with living a healthy life. But, Lustenader
says, "they are not more likely to quit smoking." And those
who are making a stab at going nicotine free say they are not more
likely to try harder to accomplish that goal.
of respondents said they are more likely to stock up on groceries.
"It’s the fall out mentality," says Lustenader. And while
it may be okay to put house brand canned chili on the back shelf,
consumers want well-known national brands on their plates. This was
one of the study’s big surprises, says Lustenader. "We expected
to see a shift to store brands because they are more economical,"
he says. But, no, "national brands give a sense of security.
don’t want to upset the routine."
turned up is that women’s attitudes and priorities shifted much, much
more than did men’s after the September 11 attack. Women’s reactions
were more extreme both on the negative and on the positive side. Women
are 16 percentage points more likely to avoid air travel, 6 percentage
points less likely to shop for a car, and 10 percentage points less
likely to spend time in a bar with friends. "The difference
men and women is really quite striking," says Lustenader. One
reason for the disparity, he posits, is that "women are the
landscape has changed. As horrific as the attacks of September 11
were, Lustenader says the anthrax scare could be worse — at least
psychologically. "Anthrax is different," he says. "It’s
going to bring the whole terrorist issue closer to home. It’s one
thing to watch terror on television. You could get away with `I live
in a low rise building in New Jersey.’" Facing the possibility
that terror could come through the mailbox raises the ante.
Anthrax already has affected direct mail advertisers. Lustenader says
they are being urged to include the name of their product and return
address, things some avoided in the belief that consumers would throw
away mail that looked promotional. Now, if still not an overwhelming
positive, promotional looks good compared with some of the other
For all marketers, says Lustenader, everything has changed because,
"consumers have reshuffled the deck on their priorities."
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