Brands need to keep track of perceived value

Whilst a lot of people proclaim to be ‘coffee people’ these days, I remain a devout tea person. All my life I’ve enjoyed Yorkshire Tea, and it’s a brand that has always resonated with my upbringing and identity. It’s nostalgic, comforting, and most importantly, a non-negotiable.

Considering this, it was strange to find myself negotiating my non-negotiable this month. Yorkshire Tea was always the go-to, and due to the fact that I drink a lot of tea, a large box was a shopping basket staple. However, as the cost of living crisis began to nip at my heels, the price tag attached to my beloved brew of choice began to look less and less feasible in my weekly budget. 

So what did I do? I sinned. I defected to Aldi Gold. It’s fine, looks a bit like the real deal, but not quite. The box isn’t quite the right shape, the colours a slightly off, and where’s the iconic image of the stone wall and rolling hills? It didn’t look quite right in my cupboard. It’s not my tea.

Even so, I stuck with it for a while. I enjoyed it a lot less, and it quickly became clear that the extra few quid was probably worth it. Then, a few days later, something caught my eye as I walked through Home Bargains. There it was on the shelf, calling me back – Yorkshire Tea. 

Except this time, it wasn’t in a huge box, or sitting above an eyewatering price tag. This time, it was in a smaller box, with a smaller price tag. It went straight in my basket.

I was right back to where I’d started, but this time, I was encountering the brand I loved in a different context. Sure, the brand and packaging was the same, but, due to the smaller volume on offer at a lower price, there was less ‘value stress’. I didn’t have the ‘I’m going to run out if I don’t buy a huge box’ feeling I’d had previously. Instead, I had a feeling of ‘I’m going to buy myself a treat that I love.’ I love Yorkshire tea, so how had I ended up being coerced into drinking an inferior substitute? 

I believe the lesson here is around perceived value. Brands must be mindful of how inevitable rising prices are going to affect brand loyalty. Even as a Yorkshire Tea fanatic, inflation had me doubting my faith. If the perceived value of a product shifts into a zone where it’s no longer worth it in the eyes of consumers, then that loyalty will quickly dissolve. So what brands need to think about is accessibility. How can brands ensure that their customers are still able to access their brand in times of financial hardship?

All it took for me to fall back under the spell of my brand of choice was to encounter it in a different context. Smaller box, lower price. Could it be that simple for brands looking to retain loyalty?