When financial markets enter turmoil, many people bewail their lost investment value, while financial advisors tell their customers to “stay the course,” and “think long-term.” Selling short, or removing funds from an investment account when it is at its lowest ebb, makes the loss “real.” The same thing happens when you fail to stay the course in marketing your brand or product.
It is all too tempting during a recession to chop “expenses,” and sadly, many companies persist in seeing marketing as an expense. This is so wrong. Marketing is an investment in a company’s future. Chopping spending during a downturn too often results in lost competitive advantage, customers and sales… and what is lost can be very difficult to recover. Adopting a forward-looking, planning-driven approach to marketing during economic uncertainty is a far more intelligent strategy. Agency principals and account managers need to guide clients to think in terms of advantageous challenges and opportunities—from profit-depressing market forces to what they can gain by actively working toward their goals.
When the Sky Is Falling…
…don’t play chicken. When clients feel the urge to duck and cover, marketing-wise, agencies need to guide clients to effective tactics for continuing their marketing efforts. They, and you, need to stay focused on goals and objectives. You may need to adjust the methods used to reach these, due to financial constraints imposed by the downturn. And that, dear friends, is why companies work with agencies—they expect and need good advice to keep their brands and products strong, regardless of the current economic conditions.
Get Back to Grass Roots
Look for ways to extend client brands that do not require large cash outlays. Public relations, grassroots marketing, and certain social media tactics can be leveraged during a downturn to help boost client marketing effectiveness even if marketing budgets are reduced. Bring ideas to the table to help clients save marketing dollars or use them differently.
Sell Harder, Not Less
Whatever clients do, they should absolutely continue marketing. Most advertising people know the story of Kellogg’s Cereals. When most of their competitors cut spending during the Great Depression, Kellogg’s doubled its marketing budget. The firm emerged from that era as the leader in cereal products, and led its competition for decades afterwards. If you stop telling people you have something worth buying, they’ll turn their attention to your competitors, who are still shouting about their products. Be invisible, and your profits may disappear as well. Instead of ceasing to advertise, try alternatives like search marketing or publicity. Test new tactics that require smaller investments. Watch for opportunities to capitalize on audience, competitive weaknesses or news events. Keep objectives in mind and seek ways to fulfill them.
Look Ahead to See More Clearly
There will always be periods of economic downturn. The key to protecting brands is to stick with your long-term plans, not react to current market pressures. Help your clients proactively manage their brands, guide them to smart, strategic marketing tactics, and stay alert for windows of opportunity. Keeping an eye on the long term creates stability and helps companies focus on goals and objectives, rather than solely reacting to threats and challenges. With your eyes on the horizon, you can see the entire landscape spread out before you, not just the five feet under your nose.