How to (successfully) continue marketing in a recession

Written by Dan Pritchard, CEO, Program. 

Marketing: There’s no such thing as normal.

Doing your marketing thing when inflation leaps up and growth goes nowhere is the headline. But within that, we know there are rising stars, brands pressing on, companies struggling, sluggish sectors, strong sectors.

So, enough of sweeping generalisations. The lived marketing experience is very different right now based on company, sector and of course whether you’re in house, agency, consultant, freelancer, home working, hybrid or office.

At the first Exeter Marketing Meetup I talked about ‘Marketing in a Recession’…

It was great to see so much positivity at the first Exeter Marketing Meetup at Clockwise.

Squeezed between chat, pizza and beer, I talked about ‘Marketing in a Recession’, a sure-fire topic to bring in the stat and graph-loving part of the marketing community. So in typical ‘Dan geek-style’, I gave it a fantasy-novel framework (anything to allow for a couple of Lord of the Rings memes). 

We set off from Base Camp, crossed the High Wire, plunged into the Valley of Despair, jumped aboard the Roller-coaster, navigated the Planes of Infinite Choice before arriving, mostly unscathed, at the Polestar.

And the key take-outs? Success right now means different things for different people. If you’re in the consumer goods space, outperforming competitors might be able to hold steady whilst others drop away. If you’re working with startups, the funding opportunities have slowed, stalled even – so have some realism. 

Continue to maintain your marketing spend and proactive marketing strategy

The evidence from the 2008 financial crash shows that brands that focus on operational efficiencies whilst keeping their people, and maintain their marketing spend and a proactive marketing strategy, come out stronger and, importantly, do best when the growth surge comes. That’s what we learnt in the Valley of Despair last week. After every downturn, we get the lift off. And the marketers that continue to combine brand and tactical focus are at the front of the grid.

To sum up, I see seven key areas of opportunity for marketers over the coming months, that can all help in the now and for whatever comes next. 

Key areas of opportunity for markets over the coming months:

Positive mindset: it starts with you.

Market insight: know your sector, know the trends. Understand your audience and how they are feeling right now.

Talent strategy: never stop. An ‘always on’ talent strategy is essential to take advantage of the…  

Budget & ROI: pressure on finances means knowing your short and longer-term ROI across all areas of spend. Budget ahead, consider different scenarios, get sharper in your measurement and reporting.

Mixed Marketing: invest in brand equity – creativity, strategy, campaigns & tactical activation. The opportunities are there. Slimming down now leaves you vulnerable to those who are simply maintaining marketing spend, never mind those boosting it.

Peer learning & support: we are a community. Connect and support colleagues and peers across it. You’ll gain insights, mutual support and friends.

Collaboration: explore the opportunities. Organic campaigns, smarter use of freelancers, bringing in the right specialists to do a better job than you can. Effective partnerships and collaborations formed in tough times tend to last.

Plenty of other opportunities were thrown in by everyone at the Marketing Meetup – thank you! What are your thoughts on how we can tackle the challenges of marketing in a recession together? 

You can access the full Marketing in a Recession slide deck HERE.