Marketing in a Recession: Hard Sell or Brand Building?


With recessions looming in many countries around the world, the first thing that comes to the mind of marketers is often “budget cuts.” But is cutting the marketing budget the best idea in a recession? And if not, how do you convince your company’s CEO, or clients, that it’s a bad idea?

For international marketing, relying on the economic indicators of one or two nations may not be wise. And worse, it may eliminate your chances of gaining ground when the global opportunity for branding could actually be at its height. It might seem that large, well-known brands will fare the best in times of economic crisis, but don’t forget that some highly successful brands were launched during economic downturns (think “Intel Inside” in 1990-1991).

Yet, there are those (such as Nick Brien, CEO of Interpublic’s Mediabrands, who is featured in a recent Ad Age video), who contend that a recession is the time to shift focus away from brand-building and place it on sales. Is that the wisest approach?

For B2B marketers, it’s important to remember that the consideration period for purchasing in the B2B sector is already lengthy. The financial situation today may change before the decision making process is over. Your marketing approach therefore may need to remain more focused on brand building than “hard-selling” in spite of what may seem most practical in the short-term.

Does proactive marketing in a recession pay off?

A report by Pen State says that for some firms it does. And of course, for others, not so much.

“The study finds that firms entering a recession with a pre-established strategic emphasis on marketing; an entrepreneurial culture; and a sufficient reserve of under-utilized workers, cash, and spare production capacity are best positioned to approach recessions as opportunities to strengthen their competitive advantage.”

…”Conversely, the study finds that firms without these strategic marketing traits are unlikely to derive economic benefits from a proactive marketing response during a recession. Such companies are better served by not increasing marketing spending until conditions improve.”

The decision may be about more than just your brand strategy, brand image, or your budget. It may come down to your willingness to take the kind of chances that lead to greatness. As Erich Fromm said, “Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.” You can’t achieve what you don’t try to reach.

Brand-building or budget-busting?

Some things to consider include:

  • Should marketing in a recession change the meaning of brand-building?
  • Does marketing to the B2B sector affect the approach during a recession?
  • Are some brands more suited to branding-building during a recession than others?
  • Can we afford to lose the ground we’ve gained by letting our branding go silent?

What others are saying…

Marketing in a Recession: Change the Meaning of Brand-Building – Jon Bell says
there is an opportunity to redefine brand-building as the art of making brands more useful and even essential in people’s lives.

Should you up your marketing during a recession? Jake Swearingen defines the three characteristics of firms who have successfully increased their marketing spending during economic downturns…and thrived.

Effective Online Marketing in a Recession. Adam Boyden discusses how Web 2.0 marketing tools can help business prosper in an economic downturn. He urges you not to put off creating new marketing strategies for a “better economic picture.”

The Upside of a Recession. “The dumbells cut back…the smart people don’t.” Robert Croston and Patrick Cahill discuss why it doesn’t make sense to cut marketing in a recession. “Like the principle of compound interest, a little investment, applied consistently, will pay great dividends down the road.

Additional reading

Value of Advertising in an Economic Downturn. The American Business Media has prepared a compelling list of arguments for advertising in a recession. (PDF)

Should I Change My B2B Marketing Strategies During a Recession? – The OneIMS Blog

Marketing Your Way Through a Recession – John Quelch of the Harvard Business School Blog

Five Tips For Marketing In Recession – Glen Gow on the MarketingProfs Blog

Marketing In A Recession – Seth Godin on his blog


2 Responses to “Marketing in a Recession: Hard Sell or Brand Building?”

  1. If you haven’t seen it, check out the eMarketer whitepaper, Digital Marketing NOW: Seven Strategies for Surviving the Downturn, written by eMarketer’s CEO, Geoff Ramsey. Full if interesting statistics, quotes, charts and ideas.

  2. 2

    What’s up to all, it’s truly a pleasant for me to pay a quick visit this website,
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