How to grow your brand through a recession

Insights | 16/05/2022 | Written by David Angus

So here we go again.

After the end of Act 1 – the COVID-19 crisis exacerbating healthcare and supply chain pressures.

We now enter Act 2 with the double pincer of the War in Ukraine and the cost of living crisis.

The portents of doom from the government and media outlets have been ramped up with regards rising inflation, energy and food prices, causing a tightening of purse strings which is impacting the outlook for brands and businesses. 

Another recession is looming. With the term stagflation (stagnation and inflation) being bandied about, the outlook for the second half of the year is a gloomy one.

However, let’s not kid ourselves. We have been navigating crises throughout history. Just take modern history for example – the oil crisis of the 1970s and the 3 day week, the 2008 financial crisis and the ongoing impact of climate change.

There is nothing new here. This is the complex and dynamic environment that we live in. Businesses and brands have been navigating such crises for many years.

Some dying, some surviving, some thriving. 

What is the biggest mistake when embracing a crisis? Doing nothing.

 

 

Head in the sand

 

‘Batten down the hatches. Cut all media and marketing budgets. Let’s ride this one out’.

Prudency is not always the best policy. 

As slow realisation dawns that the market has changed for the foreseeable future, market share has been eroded, customer sentiment diminished and marketing that has not moved with the times.

Paralysis could be caused by a number of factors, from the paradox of choice, contradictory data, a lengthy command structure etc. The list goes on.

Sometimes you have to mix up the formula to unearth innovation.

This brings opportunity.

 

Opportunity knocks

 

‘Well, you are going to say that?’ I hear you cry. ‘A biassed marketer, protecting their business’, I anticipate being the thought process.

However, one brand’s crisis is another opportunity. Even within the same vertical or business line.

Just think about the catalyst that COVID-19 gave to the eCommerce industry. Mckinsey reported a 4.5x growth in the UK alone, during the COVID-19 pandemic, with predicted growth of 45% by 2026 based on statistics from eConsultancy.

Also, what about the shock to loyalty? Over 60% of consumers tried different brands during the pandemic, with a 80%+ intention to continue. So what does this mean? Customers are on the loose. So what does this mean? It means that the segment of your customers that you have traditionally banked on are having their heads turned. Flirtatious glances with rival brands abound. Will they stay? Will they go? Thus, the value exchange needs to be reconsidered to ensure that you maintain customer loyalty.

To do this successfully, brands need to go beyond the transactional to keep consumers loyal, through relevant and resonant marketing communications, whilst highlighting their point of distinction or difference.

However, the big question remains. How can you do this consistently and at pace?


Recession proof your marketing

 

So you have seen all your set piece marketing plans abandoned and your post-COVID acceleration plan blown up. So where next?

Data, data everywhere, but how to use it?

Enter Assurance.

Assurance is not a term that you see coined often in reference to marketing. It has connotations with insurance and is linked to risk-mitigation within business.

There remains risk within marketing. Are we missing out on key opportunities? Are competitors stealing a march on us? How can we stop ourselves from becoming obsolete? This is where assurance comes to the fore. 

Now for the theoretical bit. Assurance is based on strategic fluidity. It is all well and good having 5 year plans, however, it’s wishful to think that the environment will sit still and let you implement without challenge. A challenge like a health pandemic. A challenge like a supply chain crisis. A challenge like…you get the picture.

Assurance is based on a 4 stage framework called the OODA loop:

  • Observe — what is happening
  • Orient — ensure the business or brand stakeholder are aware
  • Decide — collaboration to determine the best course of action
  • Act — deliver the response to the situation

It is delivered by monitoring trends and changes in the environment using a range of tools and bespoke techniques, harnessed by our consultants. Science meets art. Everything is backed up by data, so we can quantify the level of trend, change and opportunity and the impact it could have for the business.

An insight-lead framework that provides the ammunition to continually deliver a brand point of difference, across multiple touchpoints, at speed.

 

Be on the pulse

 

Assurance is ever evolving and we are doing our best to keep up the pace of change and the data available to us.

The ability to connect multiple data points and pieces of insight to create meaningful decision making at speed, is key to its success.

Scenarios abound.

  • Create live customer personas that are continuously enriched with fresh data and context
  • Double down on the themes and trends that really matter to your target audience. Think beyond acquisition and focus on resonance
  • Get inside your competitors OODA loop. React quickly to competitor movement and shorten your path to innovation

Let’s dwell on one point of the above hyper relevant to this article.

 

Think beyond acquisition

 

As we know, major macro shifts cause customer fluctuation in the ether. Brands and businesses desperately demand attention and naturally look to achieve this through race-to-the-bottom style discounting, potentially devaluing their propositions.

By utilising an Assurance model you can look at value through a customer lens. First and foremost focus on retention goals. Hold onto your loyal and resonant customers, whilst being able to bring newly acquired customers into the fold through highly relevant and resonant marketing.

 

The prognosis

 

Admittedly it is an uncertain time for all involved.

However, this does not mean that brands and businesses need to either panic or stick their heads in the sand.

Although budgets and disposable income may fall, consumer behaviour theory has proven that people want to still spend money to fulfil their hierarchy of needs. (Just ask Maslow).

Just make sure that your brand or business is in the best position to compete for customer sentiment and loyalty.

And rest assured, even if your strategy is to survive or thrive. In all crises, there remains an opportunity.

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