Elevate Your Marketing: Shine a Spotlight on Your Brand in a Tough Economy

The impact of persistently high inflation and continued labor challenges have come to the forefront for clients of many marketing firms. Mindfully navigating these issues through thoughtful marketing is key. 

“Some of our clients have already raised prices to cover expected costs,” said Louise Pickens, president of OBI Creative. “Most are putting a lot of attention towards marketing’s role in recruitment and clarifying the employee value proposition.”

Clients are doing so, Pickens said, to attract and retain the right talent and to fundamentally redefine the ways in which they’re leveraging talent.

Dave Klemencic, executive vice president of digital and media strategy at Smith Kroeger, said the “nearly universal” preparation for a potential market downturn takes varied forms. 

“Media and technology partners are, in some cases, proposing aggressively discounted rates in order to keep campaigns active,” Klemencic said. “We’ve also seen clients who are getting more aggressive with spending, needing to raise their visibility in a crowded space at a critical time.”

A nod to a familiar refrain during the recession of the late 2000s, Klemencic said Omaha has long demonstrated resiliency compared to other markets.

“We are fortunate to work with many clients whose services will continue to be as relevant as ever, regardless of broader market outcomes,” he added.

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Jackie Miller, CMO and co-owner of Bozell, characterized client concerns as “more broad” and “more nuanced” than the potential recession.

“Supply chain disruptions, inflation, labor market and other factors spurred by a global pandemic are different from the previous recession in 2008,” she said. “Some of the biggest challenges have come from a robust labor market that has increased costs to find and hire new staff, and finding new ways to manage marketing strategies to reinforce areas of opportunities …”

Food for Thought 

When asked about how to handle the temptation to make rash or emotional decisions in the present environment, KidGlov President and Chief Strategist Lyn Wineman reminds clients of the following truth: “A strong brand helps you command a higher price, ward off competitive threats and set the stage for a more positive internal culture. All things that are important for achieving success in a recession.”

She also pulled from recent “lessons learned” during the pandemic. 

“We doubled our own advertising efforts during the pandemic, which has resulted in new clients from across the country,” Wineman said. “It’s important to demonstrate that we believe in our craft and use our skills to achieve results.”

Likewise, she encouraged business owners to consider the opportunities to stand out when their competitors are cutting back. 

“Marketing with a poor brand is like wearing sweatpants to a job interview,” she explained. “If you have to restrict your budget, focus on your most important strategies and execute them at a higher level.”

Liz Hunt, CEO and COO of DayCloud Studios, said one of the best things business owners could do right now is to add videos to regular content and post on social media.

“Videos are increasing in engagement, specifically on Instagram and, of course, on TikTok if your brand is geared toward an audience under 32 years old,” Hunt said. “If your audience is geared towards an age group ranging from 28 to 40 I would highly recommend a solid video strategy on Instagram.”

She noted that the algorithm is set up to optimize video content. 

“Be aware, though, it could change at the drop of a hat,” she said. 

On the flipside, businesses should refrain from inconsistent marketing; for instance, a great campaign may run for one or two months, then nothing else runs for months. 

“Or, they’ll post on social media regularly for a few weeks but then eventually get too busy and drop off,” Hunt said. “Like many things, consistency is key. In this digital age, the number of times a viewer has to see our content has quadrupled in order for them to be provoked to take an action. This means, as businesses, we cannot afford to start and stop our marketing efforts or we’ll lose the attention of our audience.”

History Talks

OBI Creative Vice President of Client Services, Karisa Malchow, harkened back to 2008 when emphasizing the importance of staying the course— ensuring messaging, creative and placement are in-market and authentically relevant. 

“Clients that invested their marketing dollars and kept their brand in market reaped the benefits once the economy recovered,” Malchow said. “Those that didn’t, paid significantly higher price tags out of the recession and had a longer time catching up to those that remained steadfast.”

Notably, Malchow said: “When recessions hit, the market, particularly media, favors the ad buyer and lowers media cost. For the truly bold, it’s not uncommon to see brands ramp up investment during a recession to capitalize on the ad spend favorability of supply and demand.”

Similarly, Pickens said that, over and over, crises can really serve as catalysts for shifting consumer beliefs, values and priorities.

“We are seeing across all areas of research that many people are struggling,” she said. “History would indicate that we might see a mindset shift towards simplicity, financial security, price consciousness and thrifting.”

She added that brands shine by demonstrating meaningful action or impact amid the “compassion fatigue” and the “burnout” stemming from the emotional toll of the past few years. 

Malchow also added that readers should not be pressured to join channels that don’t align with their customers. 

“Understand your competition but run your own race,” she said. “Customers are smarter than you think and can tell when something is a rebuttal just for a rebuttal’s sake.”

Klemencic added that the more one knows about existing customers, be it the likes of large-volume purchasers, lapsed shoppers, demographic profiles and so on, the better new customer acquisition strategies can focus on the right audience.

“Understand your purchase cycle,” he said. “Tailor your media mix and message to fit as closely as you can. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to marketing.”

Bozell’s Miller underscored how, unlike the Great Recession, different factors are making the present marketplace more volatile. 

“This will require a long view — planning annually, optimizing plans quarterly,” she said. “So pivots in the strategy can be adapted for the ups and downs.”

Miller also cautioned that cutting one’s budget now, or going dormant, only increases the time and costs to re-engage. Going smaller helps. She also cautioned on “over-optimizing,” changing media or creative daily or weekly. 

“[This] can create marketing shifts based on an anomaly and can cost more than budget,” she said. “Plan your optimization and reporting to ensure you are thoughtful about when and why decisions are made.”

KidGlov’s Wineman quoted Henry Ford: “Stopping advertising to save money is like stopping your watch to save time.”

“We’re seeing research that indicates consumers want to support brands that make a positive difference in the world,” she added. “Likewise, employees are choosing employers that align with a purpose. Sharing an authentic cause alignment is an excellent way to highlight your brand and justify being more than a low-cost option.”

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