Set Your Brand Up for Success During a Recession

September 15th, 2022 | Darren McAlmont, Manager, Communications & Content, Association of Canadian Advertisers

picture of paper boats and financial symbols The pandemic has thrown us more curve balls than imaginable. At first, many of us dreaded the P word, but the unrelenting global health crisis meant that we all had to pivot in some way or the other. Now, marketers are bracing for and are fearful of the R word, but here’s how to set your brand up for success during a recession: don’t cut your advertising budget. In fact, historical precedents show that brands that maintain or increase their marketing spend during a recession, tend to fare better than brands that cut their marketing investment.

Here’s why. During a recession, many firms start to look at advertising as an expense rather than an investment. As such, many cut back on their brand advertising, which quite naturally reduces their voice and visibility in the marketplace, while brands that maintain or increase their advertising budget, do quite the opposite. The decision to maintain or increase your brand’s advertising budget during a recession not only sets your brand up for success during an economic downturn, but it also makes your brand a much stronger player during the inevitable bounce back.

Communication is Everything

Much like everyday life, brands that are able to relate to their audience through clear and authentic communication, have crossed the first hurdle in making a lasting impression on their audience. Your brand’s advertising during a recession should reflect the challenges that consumers are facing – anything less is selfish and will come across that way. Successful advertisements during an economic downturn must show solidarity and aim at showing or telling how your brand is helping during tough times.

Eliminate Short-Term Strategies

A recession is not the time to plan any get rich quick scheme. Instead, your company’s strategy should focus on coming out of the other side of a recession in the best possible position, and because no economist can ever truly predict when a recession will end, your plan must focus on the long-term. How is this done? Well, it comes by first stabilizing your brand – but cutting advertising budgets won’t help you do this.

Next, your company should understand that consumer behaviour and priorities will change during uncertain times, and you must be patient and agile. As consumer behaviours change, so should your brand, and you do this by developing messages to remind your target audiences why your products should matter to them.

Pricing During a Recession

Though it might be tempting to hike the prices of your products during a recession to even things out after you might have increased your advertising spend or see a decrease in your product sales, don’t. Recessions make consumers more price sensitive so increasing your product’s price is a bad idea, if you could avoid it. If your brand is not strong enough to avoid increasing the prices of its products during this time, don’t make the price hikes higher than the inflation rate of the time. Remember, maintaining or increasing your advertising spend during a recession is an investment – one you can expect to reap from during and most certainly after financial uncertainty – you just have to practice some patience.

Launching New Products

There is never really a fool-proof way of knowing the best time to launch a new product, even in times when the economy is booming, but studies have shown that it can be worthwhile to launch a new product around the mid-way point of a recession. That’s because launching a new product during a recession will have fewer competing products, and fewer competing products mean your brand has more market share.

However, if your company is too afraid to take a risk and launch a new product during a recession, it should be sure to maintain its research and development budget so that your company can at least be in good standing to launch a new and innovative product post-recession.

Setting your brand up for success during a recession means going against what’s intuitive and requires you to trust the process. Increasing ad spend when the economy is facing uncertain times is counterintuitive, but the evidence shows that this is the smart thing to do. The success of your brand after a recession depends largely on what you do before and during.

Darren McAlmontDarren McAlmont, Digital Marketing Specialist, Association of Canadian Advertisers

Darren is an award-winning writer who focuses his work primarily on matters of diversity, equity, and inclusion. His writings have often trended on social media and have been picked up and reshared by respected figures doing DEI work. Darren holds a master’s degree in Rhetoric and Communication Design from the University of Waterloo and a bachelor’s degree in English and Professional Writing from York University.