Why You Should Protect Your Marketing Budget, Even in a Downturn
Aug 31 2022
Economic downturns tend to send businesses into survival mode, trimming budgets wherever possible to weather the storm of a potential recession. Frequently this leaves advertisers operating with leaner marketing budgets than usual as business leaders aim to mitigate weakening ad performance. Recessions are characterized by fewer consumer dollars for businesses to compete over, which means less need to put full budgets toward marketing strategies — or at least, that’s the common myth.
The data backs a more proactive approach to advertising through economic downturn — and using the opportunity to step into an increased market share within your given industry. Here’s why companies aiming to grow mid- and post-recession ought to think twice before slashing marketing budgets:
Current Reductions and Pauses in Retail
You don’t have to look far to spot large-scale operations paring down inventory, canceling orders, and revising sales forecasts. The state of retail in 2022 is very much in flux — ongoing pandemic safety measures continue to transform the nature of in-person shopping, social media plays an even more critical role in introducing brands to new audiences, and the increasing adoption of automation and AI technologies presents entirely new business models for retailers to implement.
It can be easy to lose sight of basic marketing principles in light of these massive, industry-spanning developments. However, even as the ecommerce ecosystem evolves, the basic components of successful advertising remain — personalized brand experiences, in-touch messaging, simplified processes and careful measurement and optimization can all still prove valuable marketing investments in times of economic stagnation.
Counterintuitive though it may seem, the businesses most likely to survive a recession aren’t those hunkering down and waiting for the challenge to pass. Instead, it is generally those who market themselves well during a recession that enjoys long-term success.
Data Shows Marketing Through a Downturn Is the Right Call
Though a campaign’s average cost per conversion might be going up soon as the competition for fewer consumer dollars intensifies, a fluctuating ROI doesn’t outweigh the need to remain present in your marketing efforts throughout a possible downturn (not the least of which being that according to LinkedIn’s recently published guide, 63% of marketers “don’t feel very confident” in their present ROI measurements anyway).
Data from previous recessions reveals some staggering figures on brands that stifle their media efforts to cut costs —
- LinkedIn published an ebook in July of 2020 which included one study estimating a 66% drop in incremental sales during the last recession-driven not by a decline in ROI, but by decreased media investment.
- Research from 60+ years of auto industry marketing and product launches points to long-term success for models launched mid-recession.
- Communicating with customers in times of economic hardship with contextually appropriate messaging leads to a demonstrable increase in the share of mind, the share of voice, and the share of the market.
Companies like Netflix, Airbnb, and Microsoft all famously launched in times of economic crisis while industry giants like Amazon managed to increase sales by 28% during the 2009 recession with its innovative Kindle ebook product. In short: downturns aren’t necessarily a time to close up shop, but to instead provide innovative solutions through existing marketing and communication channels for customers your competitors are likely surrendering due to their own inactivity.
Digital Marketing Strategies Fit for a Recession
Social media use and overall screen time, largely due to pandemic safety precautions and the normalization of remote work and technology, is way up. Audiences have grown accustomed to more time on their devices and making more significant purchases via mobile apps, and businesses should adapt accordingly.
Reaching these customers by tuning into their changing priorities (including and especially sustainable business practices) has already proven wildly successful for both sparking engagement and cultivating a positive brand image. Paid search, contextual targeting, and low-funnel retargeting campaigns each continue to show promise as high-performing, yet relatively unobtrusive advertising options for brands across multiple industries.
Once customers are engaged with an advertiser’s campaign efforts, the natural next steps include personalizing the user’s experience with your brand and optimizing the path to purchase. Dynamic targeting, constructing profiles of consumers that feel personal, showing the right product images in the right formats, making mobile purchasing a breeze — each of these components creates a positive customer experience.
Trimming marketing budgets shouldn’t be done on a whim or because it seems like an easy target for necessary cuts. The overall impact of staying true to your marketing plan, even through a downturn, will lead to a stronger rebound when the market corrects itself and greater long-term success for your brand and its loyal customers.
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