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The crisis brings back the old value system of the Greeks

15 October 2010 / 11:10:37  GRReporter
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"Focus on the details and the excellence will come" is the motto of Focus Bari, one of the leading researching companies on the Greek market. Focus Bari has been working with important Greek and foreign clients for 22 years now and has plenty of successful research projects.

The company became known for inventing and operating the BARI study, ‘industry currency survey’, on the Greek market, which it applies to process data for the mass media. Focus Bari has made more than 4000 researches for numerous products and services, it has conducted more than 4 million interviews in the country, examined more than 8000 focus groups, trained more than 2500 media professionals. The company has participated in more than 200 European and global symposia.

We talked with the President of the Company Xenia Kourtoglou about the current market trends but also about the trends emerging in Greek society.

Xenia Kourtoglou has been Vice President and in charge for communication of the Association of Companies of Public Polls and Market Research for 8 years now. She is representative of the Committee of the IAB Hellas (Internet Advertising Bureau) and the Institute of Communication. Since 1996 she is a lecturer at the Media Department of  PANTEION University in Athens.  

"Get out of the blocks, run your race, stay relaxed, If you run your race, you'll win. Focus. Channel your energy ". These words of the American athlete Carl Lewis are Ms. Kourtoglou’s motto to celebrate the 22nd anniversary of the founding of Focus Bari.

How have the preferences of the Greeks changed in times of crisis?

Let me say first that when we heard about the crisis two years ago, we still had felt nothing in our daily lives. And yet, there were many people who already had cut their costs even then. A first wave passed. People did this as a preventive measure. The first researches we made showed that the Greeks gave up large purchases such cars, for example. At the same time, the Greeks began to think more about what to choose. They started to buy more carefully, looking for lower prices. They have not forsaken branded goods, but at a good price. Things started to calm down a little the last autumn. But the problems that followed then and in parallel with the presence of the International Monetary Fund, and the consequences brought shame to us. The crisis has entered strongly in people's lives and their businesses. People saw the real problem this spring, when it appeared that Greece could go bankrupt and when cuts and changes in social insurance system were made. Today, limiting to strict necessities has become a way of life. Whatever I buy I will see if I need it – this is how the people think today.

This is a big change for the Greeks...

Yes, it is. There is a search for alternative. There are changes in terms of entertainment and going out. We are doing a research for a number of restaurants and many people say they do not want to be cheated. They try to find such places where what they will pay for will meet the service quality. And the value of money will be taken into account. In other words, they want value for money. Value for money is the most important thing right now. Furthermore, people began to invest more in home entertainment. They download movies from the Internet or take them on DVD and invite friends home. They spend more time at home. Many interesting things are happening to them now. They cook; they are more interested in the environment, their health and their families.

These are positive results ...

Of course, they are. This is a return to the roots ... Saying, however, that the Greeks are more concerned about the environment I don’t mean that they suddenly see how others throw their garbage, but they themselves will not throw theirs. I mean that if they are proposed 3 identical products at the same price they will choose the one that does not harm the environment. Economic uncertainty that simultaneously leads to social uncertainty make people prioritize differently. Now, it is not a priority to demonstrate something. Everywhere we hear things lose their value ... Companies have lost their value, businesses are closing, large banks are struggling. All of them had high status. When a man can not rely on anything else a man goes back to fundamental values, saying: "The most important is that I am healthy, my family is fine, I have a good time, albeit on less square meters and with less money, otherwise I will go completely crazy."

Greeks seem to adapt quickly ...

I think so. I think it happens bit by bit. On the one hand, there is the influence of the mass media, which is not always positive. They very often exaggerate the things to gain viewers. Scandals always attract most people. This is not good because it makes a populist notion that people have always been the one to pay. Television constantly is making negative news in general. People could also turn to Star, where there are more jokes and gossiping but this does not raises the level. They are trying to turn to ΣΚΑΙ, which pays particular attention to the environment, to NET, which despite being a public channel offers another kind of seriousness compared with the more commercial channels .... Some of the people don’t want to watch the news when the news constantly report incidents. People are tired of bad news. If half of a man’s friends were fired or are expected to be fired, the wages are reduced, etc., how is a man to stand the constant bad news ...

The crisis ...
Personally, I do not think there is a way out of the crisis in the sense that we will return to the past situation, when we were lent money without any guarantee. You owe for the house you are building, you buy different things and you have a debt to pay 3 or 4 years, but you are granted the next loan. And when your monthly salary vanishes away at some point, everything becomes terribly difficult ... Many people say that the crisis could be managed at the beginning. But we went too far, we became to consume in excess. There was no need to constantly buy so many things. There was no need to have 30 bags and 50 pairs of shoes ...

Didn’t the figures indicate what could happen?
People indicated it. They spoke of a feeling that we can not restrain. We walked into the supermarket with a cart and took everything that was on the shelves. We bought things not thinking about the bill at the end. We are careful now. We take the right quantity and pay attention to the expiry date. This exactly led to a 5% decline in buying milk and yogurt. Once the information about the crisis has spread, people started to buy a yogurt at least not to spoil it.

This is certainly a healthier option ...

Yes, it is. This is a healthier option because it makes you live a more balanced life. But what happens in fact? Some sectors support other sectors. For example, a whole commercial chain was supported by cars. When it ‘crashed’, the others ‘crashed’ too. Construction collapsed. And there are 80 construction professions. Everything we can think of collapsed with them - paints, chemicals, cement, iron, telecommunications, furniture, decorations ...

Let’s talk about the mass media. What about the press? Newspapers are losing readers, the Greeks are increasingly informed by the Internet ... Some even predict that the newspaper in its printed form, will even perish ...
Newspapers fall gradually. Not only because of the crisis. Let us divide them into daily and weekend editions. I will refer to the daily newspapers. News is updated every minute now. Internet offers you news on the go, at the time when things happen. But following this logic, there wouldn’t be a single newspaper. There are many adults who read newspapers, but there is also a kind of emotional connection. Kiosk newspapers suffer most. Free press appeared which also plays a role. People stop reading little by little and obtain information using faster and more efficient ways. There is something else. Children who are born today can not imagine life without the Internet and without a computer. They learn from the screen, not with pencil and paper. The electronic communication that the younger generations carry is what will affect the newspapers negatively. Particularly important in this case is their relationship with the electronic version and their relationship with the information receiver. A mobile version, for example, could be made containing the Top 10 of the most important news of the day. Then you wont’ have to go to the kiosk to buy a newspaper. The value of the brand should be used. The name itself to build itself again in a different way that relates to today. But this can not be changed in one day. I think there will be generations and types of people who won’t relate with this system. Because we may be online, when chatting on Skype, but we think of off-line.

Yet, children are absolute digital thinkers. They are sitting in front of the screen, whether it's play station, mobile phone or computer, even at the age of 2. I see the connection and it is such that they do everything using a computer. Later on, they talk with their friends, flirt, get information, come into blogs and read or write comments, they get informed practically about everything.

Here are some results of the latest research by Focus Bari. The surveys were made on the basis of an international questionnaire adapted to the Greek reality with interviews online, offline and focus groups.

Originally Greeks cut spending of concern. 49% have cut spending preventively in the period 09/08/2009-03/09/2009. The majority of them because they believed the crisis would intensify, and the other smaller part of them because of money spending remorse. Gradually, the crisis affected everybody’s life and 7 out of 10 people began to spend money more carefully. 47% began to spend saved money to meet their daily needs.

Subsequently, spending was cut back by all. This led to changes in lifestyle, in leisure, habits and in consumption. People began to spend their free time differently. Many young people prefer to meet friends at a café instead at a restaurant. They continue to watch TV and read magazines as before, but have limited visiting cinema, theater, concerts, clubs and bars. They prefer to download movies from the Internet, to chat online, networking, news. Home entertainment now is more important than ever. 51% of Greeks are more likely to prefer to entertain at home (homing) because of the crisis than to go out. 49% admit they spend more time with electronic devices than ever before.  

56% of respondents recognized that they are buying only necessary things now. Mobile phones calls have reduced by 33%, SMS sending by 21% and fixed phone calls by 18%. Consumers link with luxury changes too. Only 14% of the people said they would continue to buy luxury brands, regardless of their economic status. Devotion to a brand is no longer a datum. 54% admit that the situation makes them buy brands that they haven’t bought before. Brand preferences remain, of course, but at a better price. 73% already state that they are concerned in usability and durability of the brand rather than in its status.

1 out of every 4 people is afraid of losing their jobs. 48% live in stress and uncertainty because of the economic crisis. What is the positive? The Greeks return to fundamental values in life. Now The Greeks are more concerned about their health, family, environment and society. They are less concerned about money, career, goods and brands.


Tags: CrisisGreeceFocus BariXenia KourtoglouInterview
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