Insight into poverty

How market research helped British American Tobacco to change the brand’s perception in crisis

By TNS Polska for British American Tobacco Polska.


Developing the brand’s new strategy targeting consumers in crisis

After 2009, growing numbers of people experienced a mental situation previously reserved to lower segments of consumers that could be defined “in crisis”. Better understanding of the situation of consumers finding themselves below the country’s poverty line became necessary. With the growing sense of a crisis threat, TNS Polska was asked to find insights among ostensibly affluent consumers. Therefore, it became essential to understand these strategies and to adjust the ATP product portfolio to those evolving consumers’ needs.


Qualitative and quantitative methodologies

Wide-scale exploratory research covering not only smokers but, more generally, developments related to poverty in Poland. Four in-depth expert interviews were conducted (with sociologists, a cultural anthropologist and with a psychologist). Social and economic data available was also analysed, and 12 all-day ethnographic observation sessions were conducted with the participation of ‘low segment’ smokers. The next step was qualitative and quantitative testing of concepts developed by British American Tobacco (BTA) for the target group thus identified.

So what?

Down-trading in crisis is possible, but not at any price

The most interesting conclusions from the research reflected in universal recommendations for brands wanting to reach consumers in crisis. One of the key learnings from the study was that down-trading in crisis is possible, but not at any price. Customers have to be sure that the products they choose are of a certain quality. Having given up more expensive brands, they do not want to feel that they are choosing an inferior product, the key factor here is perception of popular and international brands. Another important element is that packaging aesthetics can mitigate the dissonance resulting from choosing a cheaper brand.

Thanks to understanding this, BAT could offer lower cost products still acceptable for wide range of consumers without lowering their satisfaction or self-esteem. It became a strategy to approach consumers in crisis. Product features that were previously reserved for expensive premium products are now seen in products at the bottom of the market (for example pack shapes, new filters, pack designs).

Cheaper brands are no longer perceived as low quality, old-fashioned, local and outdated, but as real value-for-money products, mainstream, popular, smoked by everyone, everywhere and every day, of good quality and price.