Recession Marketing: How to Win During the Storm

January 4, 2023


Are you worried about a looming recession and how it will impact your business and marketing?

If so, this article is for YOU! 

As marketers, when a recession (or Covid) occurs, the following questions may arise:

  • Why should I continue advertising during a downturn?

  • Should I pause all my marketing activity until the market returns to normal? 

  • How can I keep awareness with a reduced budget?

  • How do I adapt my marketing campaign? 

  • Can I (or should I) reach my audience when they are facing difficulties? 

Don’t Halt Your Marketing & Advertising 

Deciding to halt all marketing activity until you have ideal business conditions makes sense on the surface level, BUT studies continually show that brands that stop advertising see significant year-on-year declines in sales. ​​

16% drop in sales after 1 year of no advertising 

25% drop in sales after 2 years of no advertising 

58% drop in sales after 5 years of no advertising

Small brands that stop advertising see a greater decline in sales when compared to large brands. 

Source: WARC Successful Competitive Strategies for Recession and Recovery, Tony Hillier, TiVo

What To Do In The Short Term 

As previously stated, we do NOT want to stop advertising - don’t hit the panic button. Markets need to respond strategically and adapt their current campaigns to match any changes in customer demand. 

Ask yourself this question:
Can my offering help customers in difficult times? 

Think back to COVID, where online banking and delivery services thrived while helping their customer's social distance because their offerings were highly relevant. They succeeded long-term through short-term marketing messaging. 

During a recession, money is obviously tight - so think about what financial savings you can offer to customers who need it. 

  • $0 down? 

  • Payment Plans

  • Cheaper Options

  • Loyalty Rewards 

  • Discounts

Now, recessions and inflation go both ways. Your sales may have decreased, or daily business expenses may have increased. Currently, the public perceives companies as greedy and taking advantage of inflation to price gouge - so when adjusting your pricing, think about how you can ethically justify the price difference. A great strategy is to add to the perceived value of your offering to justify the price increase

What To Do In The Medium Term 

Now comes the time to plan for the next quarter of marketing. Take time to evaluate where your customers are, and adjust your aim to meet their (possibly new) buying behavior - NOT where you have historically expected them to be. 

Trim The Fat, Not The Muscle 

If marketing funds need to be cut, remove secondary tactics and prioritize tactics and strategies with the best performance when compared to your competitors. 

Look at how you can increase the value of your offer. 

During a recession, your marketing matters more than ever. Customers need to justify every purchase when penny-pinching. Marketers must develop messaging that best reflects the value offered and stands out to the new needs a recession creates. 

Earn Trust 

If your brand can provide RELEVANT insights and directions, do it! You may not make a sale today, but if you earn their trust - you have earned a sale tomorrow. 

What To Do In The Long Term 

During times of difficulty, you can position your brand for future success. Companies that market aggressively during the recession have seen 256% higher sales when compared to those that did not continue to market. 

We recommend maintaining your voice at its current level and weaving your brand’s impact into ad messaging while backing it with action that reflects your brand’s value. During times of difficulty, brands are given the opportunity to build trust with their target audience - this is a glass-is-half-full and seize-the-day type of thinking - but what does moping do to help? 

Spark Notes Version Of This Blog (Recap)

Do NOT stop advertising, but develop messaging that is relevant and makes an impact in your prospective customer’s life. Cut fat if needed, but keep the muscle of your advertising plan. Studies have shown that continuous marketing activity through difficult times results in higher future profits, and reduced marketing activity results in losses. 



Written by Nik Hiles
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