Marketing During a Recession

Turn off the television. Avoid your radio. Line the bird cage with the morning paper. Why, you ask? The thunderous gloom and doom predictions of the Federal Reserve would lead one to believe we’ve got to stop spending and stuff our hard-earned cash under our mattresses.

Whether we actually enter a recession or not is still up for debate. However, it does bring up a prickly subject for many businesses. Should you continue investing in marketing or defer those expenditures until the economy picks up?

Let Your Brand Do Your Selling

When the stability of the economy is in question, the knee-jerk reaction for many businesses is to pull back on their marketing efforts until a bull market returns. In reality, there isn’t a better time to market than during a recession – whether real or imagined. As John Vanderzee, former advertising manager for the Ford division of the Ford Motor Company, said during the 1990-91 economic slump, “Anybody who retrenches because of the recession has really got his head in the sand.” Vanderzee then added that spending money on marketing during a recession is a must.

An economic downturn can be an opportunity rather than a death sentence. If your product or service is synonymous with value, then you’re already ahead of the curve. With closer attention to spending, customers are carefully evaluating their options and will continue to look for high-quality, affordable products and services.

What’s more, it’s likely that your competition will be less visible, since many companies fail to recognize the opportunity and instead reign in their marketing expenses. As a result, they leave potential market share on the table. Consequently, your continued marketing efforts stand out and are more likely to be heard with less chatter in the marketplace.

A strong brand can pay big dividends during a recession, enhancing the success of your marketing efforts tremendously. If your brand clearly demonstrates value to your audience, is managed well, connects with your target on an emotional level and instills loyalty, you are likely to fair well during any perceived recession. Prudential’s Retirement Red Zone campaign is one example. It taps into the retirement concerns of consumers and reassures the audience that, despite the current economy, they can achieve their retirement goals. The campaign uses television, radio and print ads, to drive consumers to the Prudential website. Once there, they can engage with personal advisors and access various educational tools, resources and information on their website.

If your brand doesn’t meet the criteria above, do not panic. Now is a great time to heighten your visibility (often amid less competition). Take the time to perfect your brand and then reach out to your audience to underscore your brand’s value.

Conversely, you may have a well-known brand but a premium product or service. You may wonder if your audience will continue to “indulge” when times are tight. If you’ve done a good job of defining and strengthening your brand, your core loyalists will continue to buy. Take Tiffany’s, for example.

Regardless of economic downturns, Tiffany’s continues to thrive. People continue to buy, despite the cost because the brand has reinforced its quality and timeless appeal. The robin’s-egg blue packaging is easily recognizable – even without the name people know it’s Tiffany’s. It conveys the brand without saying a word.

See the Tiffany’s envelope or box and you think: Hope. Promise. Something of value and elegance. Tiffany’s products may be premium but they convey quality and elicit strong, positive emotions within its audience.

Click here for part 2 of the article.

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