Gear up. Don’t panic.

A recession may be on the horizon. Here's how to maximize your marketing when the markets crash.
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The economic upturn continues but many predict a recession on the horizon. When the depression rears its ugly head, marketing is often the first unit to get the axe. But it should be the other way around. A recession holds great economic potential for companies who dare focus on long-term branding.

It’s almost an unwritten rule that marketing expenses get cut when a company is pressed for finances. Unlike the products or services that generate company profits, the prevalent attitude is that marketing is expendable.

However, the latest financial crisis has shown that in reality, it’s actually quite the opposite. American research from Penn State University and the University of Texas shows that companies with greater marketing activity during a recession come out strengthened on the other side.

Naturally, it requires a degree of economic muscle to keep up a rapid cadence when everyone else is turning down their activities. And not everyone is that lucky when the recession is hammering away. But it’s a valuable point at a time when it’s probably only a matter of time before the great consumption party is over.

If your company seizes the opportunity, an increased marketing focus in the (perhaps) coming recession will open up new possibilities to strengthen your brand considerably – and overtake your competitors when the economic curve once again points upwards.

Search for the core

It is my understanding that the brands that best deal with recessions, are the ones that succeed in being top-of-mind with their customers. That’s always the case, obviously. But, if buying power is suddenly massively reduced and the orders become fewer and fewer, it’s that much more important to be your customer’s de facto choice.

That’s why my advice is to cut to the bone. Remove all excess fat and focus your business on what you are best at – and then communicate it. Intelligently, continuously, and with a clear red thread to your brand. To the company’s values and DNA. To everything you want to be.

It is my understanding that the brands that best deal with recessions, are the ones that succeed in being top-of-mind with their customers.
Mette Hejl CEO & Partner

In times of recession, marketing gets trapped in the ‘sales snare’ where all activities are centered on supporting instant sales. I have written about the issue of short-termism before but it’s actually an even greater challenge in times of financial recession.

If the recession means constant clearance sales, you risk devaluating your brand. And in continuation, the perception of your company – especially if takes years before you get back to ‘normal’ again.

Cut through

Even if the consequences of low marketing activity levels are clear, your financial situation can become a compelling reason to cut back. So, if you must cut back, make sure you make smart choices that affect your brand as little as possible.

It will always be an individual assessment based on your market, customers, and strategies, but typically you can start cost-cutting marketing activities that don’t directly contribute to the activation of your brand. The brand is your company’s most important asset. It’s the lever to the minds of your customers. The deciding factor that determines if they choose your or your competitors.

The root to bad marketing is bad planning. It’s only emphasized when people start losing their jobs left and right – and quick fixes become the only agenda of the day. You should always make your plan on the basis of a solid strategy but the difference between good times and recessions is that you will (more often) get away with being unstructured when everything is going well. You need to make to intelligent, calculated decisions.

Is it clever to run several short-term campaigns for a longer period of time that don’t point back to anything united? Do you get better results from trade shows when you buy the biggest stand or simply focus your energy on making a smaller one stand out? Do you write press releases that never get mentioned, only to cross them off your list? Has routine taken over your day-to-day or do you remember to stop and measure your marketing efforts?

Simple questions, but hard choices – and even harder to succeed at. If you don’t have any money, you need to get ahead some other way. Creativity is the best weapon in marketing. Always. But especially if you have run out of money. The ability to create something worthwhile out of practically nothing. It’s not easy, but creativity offers the most bang for your buck when you can’t squeeze any more juice from your budgets.

The saying ’90% of success is showing up’ is quite telling when it comes to making it through a recession safe and sound.
Mette Hejl CEO & Partner

90% of success is showing up

When the global economy collapsed in 2008, it clearly effected how companies prioritized their marketing budgets. Sellers of advertising space on pretty much all media platforms experienced a significant dive in sales and so, they suffered as much as the companies that suddenly had to shut the treasure chest.

This opened a window of opportunity for those with the courage and means to strike. When fewer companies are buying ad space, prices naturally go down – and suddenly it’s cheaper for those companies who have maintained their marketing focus. It creates a clear-cut platform to boost your exposure, at the expense of your competitors.

The saying ’90% of success is showing up’ is quite telling when it comes to making it through a recession safe and sound – from a marketing perspective, at least. When your competitors go black from reduced budgets, your visibility and share of voice only increases that much more, if you keep your activity levels high.

Don’t be afraid to bite

The business world’s natural reflex is to pull back when the state of the market is in free fall, and in most instances that reflex comes from hard-earned experience. Not everyone has the muscle or means to keep their marketing focus when the markets crash but for those who do, my recommendation is clear: don’t be afraid to bite.

Wounded animals that hide or feign death, get eaten. There is only one way through a recession and that is straight ahead. The battle for the minds of your customers can be measured on the bottom line. And in times when the bottom line is bleeding, you can’t afford not to show up for battle.