While difficult economic conditions may be trying, it is important to stress that investing and spending are not one in the same. A company can make a significant investment with minimal spend. There are many ways to achieve great impact with minimal or even reduced costs:
In a recession, more effective employees can make the difference between success and failure. Implementing an internal program that encourages employees to “live the brand” brings a company together by providing clarity. This simple effort can boost employee morale and ensure that their efforts stay focused and on-brand.
Instead of spending on typical sales promotion, spend on engagement. Exploring and exploiting different sensory inputs can lead to innovative brand signals that are less costly to implement than traditional advertising. Look for the low hanging fruit. Ask the question: “Where and how can the brand effectively get the message out?” Bang for the buck is everything.
Outsource branding, “insource” execution. The cost of execution eclipses the cost of creativity. A tight budget can choke branding and marketing efforts. In a recession, the costs of branding can seem high. However, by bringing high-cost items like execution in-house, companies can better leverage their limited budgets.
Negotiate! Your dollar buys more in a bad economy. You may find that you are able to negotiate longer payment terms, volume discounts or other benefits. In times of recession, most partners and vendors are open to discussion. Leverage your position properly and you could find a tight budget buys big budget returns.
Leverage relationships and explore co-branding initiatives. Companies are cutting costs at every turn. Co-branding can reduce marketing costs while extending the brands reach by allowing unrelated brands to split the costs of marketing while gaining the competitive advantage of cross-brand endorsement.
Price slashing may sound simple and logical, but it is a sure way to give up ground to competitors who may be more aggressive during the downturn. Price isn’t merely a reflection of quality, it’s also an indicator of it. It’s easy to rationalize that: “it drives business,” and “consumers are struggling and need the help,” but steep discounts tend to attract price-driven shoppers who aren’t likely to be loyal to your brand.
Cement a value-based position with consumers, not a position of low price. If you can find a way to reduce costs–while maintaining quality–and you can permanently pass that price reduction on to the consumer, your brand equity will grow now and after the economy eventually rights itself. Whether in good times or bad, if you can provide enhanced value to consumers, you’re doing the right thing.
While a recession may feel like the worst time to be a marketer, it may be the best time to build brands. The companies who maintain a strategic perspective and invest in their brands will rebound from a recession stronger from the experience. Weaker brands may not exist by the time the economy re-surges.
Consumers are forming opinions about your brand whether you’re proactively managing the experience or not. So, to be successful, be as optimistic as you can. Your brand and business are in a position either to contribute to the fear or help diffuse it. The connections made during these times of crisis are often stronger than those made in times of prosperity. Look for opportunity where others see hopelessness to find the low hanging fruit your brand needs to thrive.
Equity is only built through the consistent delivery of your brand promise over time. The reward is improved customer loyalty.