Though the current recession looks like being the worst on record, some useful guidelines from previous recessions are to be found in the Archive.
In particular, the report provided by Millward Brown in 2011 showed that the tendency to shift focus from long-term strategy to short-term sales should be resisted and brand strength needs to be nurtured and maintained in good times and bad.
The report instances Woolworths as a brand which failed to do this, as it went out of business soon after the 2007-2008 recession. Millward Brown offered five recommendations for recessionary times:
- Review your marketing plans and make significant changes – as did Barclaycard and the moisturising soap Dove during the 2001 recession.
- Beware of reducing your ad spend, especially if your competitors are reducing theirs. Brands which benefited from maintaining their ad spend in 2008 were Audi and Heinz.
- Ensure your copy is working with fresh creativity.
- Be creative with your media channels – especially relevant in the current recession when new kinds of media have recently become available.
- Don’t get defensive: use price promotions sparingly. In product categories where brand is less important (such as motor fuel, mineral water, and grocery stores) they can be effective, but especially for premium brands it is not a good idea. One premium brand example was Audi, which instead re-oriented its campaign around the theme of fuel efficiency.
More ideas and examples are to be found in this 2011 Millward Brown report, ‘Marketing in Uncertain Times’ which was produced as part of its ‘Knowledge Points’ series, drawing on its research on 80,000 brands and 40,000 ads. And further advice on recessionary branding can also be found in the Archive in the July 1993 article in Marketing Magazine on ‘The Branding Rethink’ by Mark Uncles of the LBS. See below for links to the archive articles.
The source material for this article (and much more) can be found in the online Archive of Social and Market Research:
• Millward Brown: Marketing in Uncertain Times (2011)
• Mark Uncles, London Business School: The Branding Rethink (1993)
Contributed by Peter Bartram
Date posted: 4th February 2021