Blame it on the economy…

February 9th, 2009

This weekend, a friend told me that for anything that goes wrong, she and her husband now blame the economy.

Car broke down – “It’s the economy.” Out of cereal – “It’s the economy.” Jeans don’t fit – “It’s the economy.”

You can’t look at the daily headlines without a story on how the economy is affecting our lives – not to mention the food industry. (Although, as we sat in the Cheesecake Factory on Saturday afternoon, the crowds may have indicated otherwise!)

But the truth is, that recessions can be times of great innovation. The iPod, Trader Joe’s, Crest White Strips – all of these brands were built during a recession. When manufacturers are competing for fewer consumer dollars, their products must stand out from the competition, offering value, both monetary and life-oriented.

One great way to determine consumer value, is from the consumers themselves! There’s tons of consumer feedback out there. From blogs, to Facebook fan pages and status updates (“Erin is excited that Shamrock Shakes are back!”). Another great, and sometimes untapped area, is your own website. If you have a consumer feedback section of your website, embrace it. It’s the perfect place to find your consumers’ wishes. If you post recipes, check out comments posted by users to see how they’re customizing and using your product in a way you never thought of. I read an article recently that online feedback can go unchecked, and couldn’t believe it. The best part about using this type of consumer feedback? It’s pretty darn cheap.

In a recent issue of Fast Track Fast Trends, we profiled a new product from Nissan Food Products Cup Noodle in Japan. Their new Milk Curry Cup Noodle is based on their original Curry Cup Noodle variety, and internet word of mouth that the product tasted better when prepared with hot milk, rather than hot water. Nissin responded with a milk based curry soup mix. The same is true of the company’s Milk Seafood Cup Noodle also launched last year, which was again based on consumer feedback, and an extremely large number of hits on Google when the keywords “milk” and “seafood noodle” were used.

 Nissan Food Products Cup Milk Seafood Noodle

Another great idea, check out My Starbucks Idea – a website for Starbucks customers to vent-i (haha, couldn’t resist), share and suggest. One suggestion from the site that Starbucks recently implemented was free coffee on election day.

So go ahead and check out what your consumers are saying about you online. After all, if you’re not happy with the results, you can always blame it on the economy! 🙂

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