Marketing Luxuries and Necessities

The latest survey from Pew Research Center's Social & Demographic Trendsrolls-roycerevised1 made quite a stir last week as consumers reported on which items they call luxuries versus necessities in their homes. Kitchen and laundry appliances took quite a hit as anywhere from 15% to 20% of consumers decided microwaves and home air conditioning are luxuries they could do without.

While the numbers indicate a significant shift in attitude since 2006, at least 40% of consumers still rate appliances such as TVs and clothes dryers as necessities. Also intriguing is that fewer consumers want to give up mobile phones, home computers or high-​speed Internet and call them necessities, not luxuries. Keep in mind that a smaller percentage of consumers overall own these items so an item by item comparison between, for example, clothes dryers and flat-​screen TVs, is not especially accurate.

In general, a close look at the survey demographics reveals that consumers over age 65 are less likely than other groups to have taken four or more steps to cut expenses since the start of the recession. Likewise, consumers earning over $100,000 annually have also taken fewer steps to cut expenses.

The bottom line is that the top-​line results of the Pew study make for good headlines. It's important to study the underlying data for meaningful trends that you can share with your clients as you prepare marketing plans. Consumers are still buying products and services and a good ad campaign can help your clients make the sale.

[Source: Morin, Rich and Taylor, Paul. Luxury or Necessity? The Public Makes a U‑Turn, Pew Research, April 2009] 
Kathy Crosett
Kathy is the Vice President of Research for SalesFuel. She holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Vermont and oversees a staff of researchers, writers and content providers for SalesFuel. Previously, she was co-​owner of several small businesses in the health care services sector.