Yes, it’s that time of the year again. The weather cools, we start to pile on the clothes and the kilos in preparation. Winter is coming. Magazine racks are bursting with soup and slow cooking recipes and television advertising is full of images of warm people wearing warm fluffy socks drinking warm cups of stuff by warm roaring fires. And of course, MasterChef is back on our TV screens, exactly a day after My Kitchen Rules finished for another season. But is the so-called ‘MasterChef Effect’ continuing to have an effect on Australian consumers?
With the Australian grocery market largely driven by price these days, how else can brands engage with consumers beyond price? What’s pushing their buttons? Consumer research delivers the insights needed for brands to discover new ways to engage with consumers.
MasterChef was a massive success for Network Ten when it was launched to Australian audiences on April 27 2009. Evolving from on an original concept that began in the UK in 1990, Australian MasterChef became one of the most watched shows in the country and even rivalled prime-time sporting events like the Australian Open and the Rugby – a massive achievement in such a sport-loving nation. It has always been a show about ordinary people cooking extraordinary food but key to its success is that it mirrored other successful reality TV shows. It places great emphasis on contestants’ emotions, the use of dramatic music, built up judging showdowns, with cliffhanger editing.
After it’s initial success, MasterChef began to lose viewers – it was never going to sustain the record breaking audiences of the first few seasons – and in trying to stem the tide it lost its way a bit and in 2013 rated poorly. Too many spin-off series – with kids, celebrities and all-stars – and trying too hard to compete with rival My Kitchen Rules cost the network viewers. But in 2015 MasterChef worked it out. As Matt Preston said, “We worked out what makes MasterChef tick… let’s find people who are good cooks and help them develop into extraordinary cooks. Lets find people with real dreams and desires to create a new future for themselves in the industry of food, whatever form that takes. Let’s enjoy that development, treat them with respect and fall in love with them.”
The latest ratings for the 2017 season indicate that this is working. In the first week of June, MasterChef reached more than 900,000 viewers on a Tuesday night, for the first time in three weeks. It launched with a metro audience of 1.06m and managed to reach 927,000 metro viewers on Tuesday June 6, according to OzTam’s overnight preliminary metro ratings. It is the highest metro audience viewing for a Tuesday for the show since May 17, when the show reached 1.045m metro viewers. In the last week of May the show managed 874,000 metro viewers and it was the second-most-watched program in the 16-39 and 25-54 key advertising demographics, and the most-watched show in the 18-49s.
This is sure to keep sponsors of the program, like Coles, very happy. With the grocery market largely being about winning customers with lower prices, MasterChef gives Coles and other sponsors the opportunity to present other attributes such as value, quality, freshness and range. Coles Chief Customer Officer, Simon McDowell, says, “Coles is excited to partner with MasterChef Australia for the ninth year running to supply the food for the MasterChef Australia pantry. We’re proud of the Australian meat and fresh product we offer at Coles, and look forward to watching the contestants create masterpieces using quality Aussie ingredients in their dishes.” Coles Managing Director, John Durkan recently announced plans to focus on increasing its fresh product and reducing the range of some products to make it simpler for the customer. He also said he believes Australian prices are “crazy” compared with overseas.
Supermarket brands Coles and Woollies have had to compete more and more on price with the growing presence of Costco and particularly ALDI helping Australian consumers to become even more price savvy. CHOICE recently released its latest supermarket price survey showing consumers can save nearly $80 a shop by switching from leading brands to a basket of ALDI products. And there are further grocery competitors threatening the established local players. German chains, Kaufland and Lidl are tipped shake things up a bit, although whilst Kaufland has publicly revealed its intentions to open in Australia, the same is not yet true of Lidl. Amazon Go is another potential competitor, although an Australian launch is probably still a reasonably a fair way away.
Recent research indicates Australian consumers are keen for the competition. Market research of just over 3,000 adults found that 86% believe the presence of ALDI is good for Australian consumers, while 74% said they would like to see another discount supermarket chain open in Australia. In addition, 82% of research respondents said they would shop at a discount supermarket if one opened near to where they live.
But are Australian consumers only motivated by price? Surely other factors are driving consumer behaviour in this market. Indeed, the secret to ALDI’s success is not just the cheap prices – it also rates very highly on quality and value, dispelling the myth that low prices equal poor quality.
Better understanding of consumer behaviour around current and evolving trends is key to gaining new consumer insight, enabling brands to hone their product and service offering and communications. Keeping a ‘finger on the pulse’ via consumer research provides brands with unique consumer insight that is vital in knowing how to tap into consumers’ emotions in order to drive their behaviour.
A recent campaign brilliantly executed by UK brand M&S, ‘Spend it Well’, is an example of this. They used the consumer insight of seeing food as a substitute for travel. With current world events making staying home more appealing this is presumably a very solid strategy. M&S Spend it Well TV
It is fair to assume that, given the current global climate, people are less likely to want travel abroad and Australian food brands could leverage this opportunity. It’s often the smells and tastes that connect people to travel memories. Advertisers could encourage consumers to substitute food for actual travel – travel with tastebuds. Visit upmarket restaurants and foreign lands by preparing high-end restaurant quality food without leaving home. Be a ‘MasterChef’ in your own kitchen. In this scenario consumers may over look price and pay for more exotic and expensive ingredients or products if they are foregoing travel. Consumer research can help unveil such insights.
It is important to keep a finger on the pulse of what’s going on in consumers’ minds and stay ahead of the competition. Continually research consumers and the market so you can respond to what’s important right now. Craft the right product to the right audience using the right communication at the right time. The world is changing and moving at a rapid pace, faster than ever before, and consumers in this fast-paced world expect brands to keep up with them. Anticipating change through continual research enables brands to stay ahead of the game.
To find out how we can help you gain further insight into your consumers and the market, call us now.
Sources: Mumbrella 7 June 2017, CANSTAR 11 April 2017, Inside FMCG 7 June 2017, Marks & Spencer 2017