Are you struggling to know what your next marketing steps should be, knowing that dark times are looming over us all?

A recession has never been accurately predicted and until it arrives nobody is sure how big it will be or how long it will last. But one thing is for sure, and that is that everything finds itself being affected in a very predictable way – which you could say is good news, if you’re a marketer. Plus, we’re here to help you!

We’ve put together the 9 most important points to help you approach and navigate the uncertain times ahead.

Retain, maintain or increase your marketing spend

Businesses that increase their advertising during a recession experience higher sales and market share during or after the recession. Whilst competitors are cutting back, you can improve market share and return on investment at a lower cost than you could during good economic times.

Virgin Atlantic took this approach and launched their 25th anniversary campaign ‘Still Red Hot’. It’s estimated to have contributed 20% of their overall revenue in this time.

Excess share of voice (ESOV)

The more a brand spends on advertising vs its competitors, the more it will grow. During a recession, maintaining share of voice will help to avoid an expensive recovery. In almost every recorded instance, a brand with a positive ESOV will gradually grow its share of the market to a level that will eventually match its share of voice.

McDonald’s decided to drop its advertising budget and Pizza Hut took advantage of ths. While McDonald’s sales declined by 28%, Pizza Hut’s grew by 61% thanks to their continued spend.

Consider some shorter spend

In some categories there may be no choice but to cut all advertising to conserve cash. However, if resources are available then the arguments that favour brand building are stronger and money should be spent. Think eye-catching initiatives that reflect the mood of the times.

Empathy often equals effectiveness

Consumers look favourably on brands who are responding to the crisis in a helpful yet authentic manner. While brands are cutting their budgets, creative comms are more important than ever. During this time of heightened emotions, many brands re-evaluate their messages. Empathy often equals effectiveness when talking to customers, especially in a time of crisis.

Disney focused on these emotions, in a time where people were trying to escape their harsh reality, they introduced the mouse character with several animations. And the rest is history!

Strategic changes to targeting

Consumer needs change when there is an economic downturn, you need to know what your customers need right now and make any adjustments accordingly. You’ll see supermarket private labels waiting for the winter of recession before entering the shopping baskets of many. By the time the recovery period arrives, they have proven their quality and remain a regular purchase.

Step back and look at brand position

Hand in hand with a readjustment in targeting comes a review of product positioning. While everything may feel the same, customers have changed. They are now risk averse, uncertain of the future and keen to save, all of which may lead you to reconsider your positioning. 

Covid was a prime example of this with gym chains offered online workout subscriptions, and commercial airlines carrying freight.

Netflix have done this successfully, offering their service by streaming through services like Xbox, allowing themselves to reposition and attract new customer bases.

Increasing prices

Thanks to the rampant inflation we’re experiencing, there is a particular pressure on price increases right now. If you need to increase your prices, just play it straight and let your customers know exactly what and why it is happening! 

Open up to the idea of being purpose-driven

We need to become all about purpose. In this new time it is clear that acts are now more important than ads and the normal rules of marketing, business and recessions may not apply. All brands should aim to become purpose-driven, putting aside their short term profits where possible to focus on doing what is most helpful and in the public interest.

Starbucks did just this after they fought for survival after the recession – shifting the focus back to making customers feel welcome and cared for.

Navigating downturns into opportunities

The full impact of advertising is seen over time which helps explain why brands that maintain or increase their spend during a recession are rewarded in the months and years to follow. Lots of evidence shows that slashing advertising will hurt sales during and after the period but those who increase their spend, especially relative to competitors, will grow sales and share of the market faster, which will continue to be seen for months and years to come.  Those who do not, find themselves struggling even when in stable future markets.

Budweiser beer in the US remained stable for 1 year without advertising, and then started to see declines appearing.

As you can imagine we have a few opinions on this, and we’d be delighted to share them with you. Together we could successfully navigate your brand through the uncertain times ahead!

We're The Behaviours Agency.

At every stage of the customer journey we find creative ways to give our clients the advantage. We do it by creating preference.

Preference is being ahead of the competition in the customer’s mind. That means being more motivating, more top-of-mind and easier to choose.

If you want help being the preferred choice for your customers, get in touch today.

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By Meg Slip

Senior Account Executive