Marketing through the mayhem: Why companies should increase their marketing when times are tough

Given the current global challenges and uncertainties, it’s natural for people to review and then cut all non-essential spending. When customers buy less, businesses revisit their marketing budgets and it’s often this cost that is seen as expendable.

“Rising costs, war complications, Brexit, the pandemic, natural disasters – the past few years have been difficult on people and businesses around the world. And a result of these tough periods is that marketing goes under the cost-cutting knife,” says Ricardo Pereira CEO at comOn/AMIN Portugal. “We’ve seen this play out during many crises but while marketing budget cuts may help in the short-term, they seldom make sense in the long run.

The impact of pausing your marketing and disappearing from your audience’s view is that your brand loyalty will slowly begin to erode. The question is: how invisible can you really afford to be? If your competitors are spending money on marketing, you’re getting left behind, but if they aren’t, the opportunity is ripe for you to differentiate your brand and dominate your market.

Taking learnings from the past, it’s usually the brands that invest in marketing during challenging economic times that will rebound more quickly when hard times are over. When the market is quiet and less competitive, you need to take your limited marketing budget and maximise its impact. For this you must be strategic and make smarter marketing decisions.

Stay connected with your customers

Most of your marketing decisions begin with your customers. In a crisis, priorities and needs change and this impacts buying habits. Against this backdrop, it’s highly likely that you don’t know your customers as well as you once did, which is why you should gather new data, re-profile your audience and feed this into your adapted marketing plan. In tough periods, customers spend money on brands they trust or where they believe they will get the highest perceived value. Listen to your audience, genuinely address their needs, help them solve their problems and you will cement the relationship.

Re-examine and adjust your messaging

It’s essential for your own livelihood, and that of your people, that you continue marketing your business in a crisis situation. However, it’s worth noting that marketing without empathy is far worse than simply not marketing at all. Companies must adapt to current world events and re-evaluate the content they produce and the outward facing communication they convey. Don’t pursue the hard sell or capitalise on the crisis but acknowledge it and display genuine empathy and support. Your messaging also needs to be relevant and keep pace with the fast-changing environment, so embrace marketing agility and produce content in real time.

Adapt KPIs and marketing goals

During economic instability there’s less money flowing between customers and companies, and from business to business. Look at your current marketing plan and determine what is and isn’t working. Scrap ineffective campaigns, set new relevant targets and then spend more money on content and platforms that are performing well. By adapting your marketing goals and your KPIs to be more in line with current economic challenges, your new marketing strategy is more likely to help your business survive and thrive.

“Crises end, recessions come and go, and hard times do eventually pass,” says Søren Grinsted, owner of Public/AMIN Denmark. “Research has shown us that those brands that continue to communicate and market during tough times are most likely to reap the benefits of this investment when the market bounces back.”

“Marketing budgets will be scrutinised and audience behaviours will change, which is why it’s never been more important to make your marketing spend work as hard as possible. Review and reposition your messaging, brand identity and targets to ensure that your marketing delivers as much ROI as possible and your business comes out of the tough time even stronger and more resilient,” says Grinsted.

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Marc van Bakel
Network coordinator EMEA
Tel +31 6 29 05 56 33