How to Avoid Reactionary Marketing Spend

Despite the urge to do otherwise, now is the time to challenge conventional wisdom and go all-in with your marketing initiatives. Those that do will likely emerge from a bad economy with a stronger customer base and a healthier bottom line.

By Nelson Freitas, Global Chief Strategy Officer at Omnicom Precision Marketing Group

Many brands hear “recession” and the automatic response is to stop marketing or move dollars to a transactional channel like “search.” In the recent report from International Monetary Fund, global growth is anticipated to fall from 3.2% in 2022 to 2.7% in 2023. I get that tough times call for tough measures, but unfortunately, marketing can’t easily be turned on and off, on a whim. That’s not the way it works to be optimum. Marketing is about relationships, and typically you can’t put those on hold — presence and ongoing interaction is key.

Here are a few suggestions to avoid reactionary action:

Start with continuing your marketing efforts. Historically, companies that shrink their marketing budgets during economic downturns see far less growth than their competitors that maintain marketing spend. Between 1981-82, companies that shrank their marketing efforts lost out on 256% growth. An impending recession is an opportunity to look at your current strategies. How are those strategies connecting with your target audience?

This is an opportune time to check in with your clients or customers and make sure that your brand is being noticed for the reasons you want it to be. It’s also a good time to not go an inch deep on several things but focus efforts on a select few that will have a better chance of hitting ROI and brand reputation measures.

Get creative. We have a ton of data on our customers. It’s time to go into that vault or bank of data and unearth new insights that will make your customers feel thought about, cared for, and treated not as a number but one-of-a-kind.

This is a good time for creative experimentation and not generic messages that ring hollow. The pandemic showed us that you must understand how disruptions are affecting your customers for your marketing to not fall flat. You have to meet the customer where they are, so get more from your creativity and communications by being meaningful with what you serve up. This costs nothing and can have a huge payoff, particularly if your competitors become complacent. This is simply smart thinking that often is overlooked.

Go niche or under-served. If your competitors are retreating, then go after an audience that’s been left neglected or ignored, which often includes minorities and other marginalized groups. Give them the attention they deserve and address their needs.

Re-configure a product or service for them. How can you strengthen your suite of offerings to meet and exceed their individual needs? It will show your brand’s inclusive efforts stretch into the world around you and not just inside the walls of your company.

Solve an awful pain point. We all know what they are — those things that consumers complain about incessantly. Something as simple as integrating and orchestrating your marketing pieces into a more coherent story will serve up a more impactful and beneficial narrative for consumers. Even just better fusing your online offerings with offline ones would be a good start to ensure you don’t miss out on any dollars that fall through the cracks given poor experience integration.

Partner up. You can’t do everything on your own so think about partnering up — from other companies to social media influencers and anyone in between — to serve up a new benefit, dimension, or message that fulfills an unmet need. This also throws off competitors by introducing a new occasion, message, or benefit previously unrecognized.

Many brands have superficial relationships with their partners that rarely go beyond “reaching more consumers,” so this is a time to go deep and be bolder. Try partnering with an organization that helps you reach your niche or under-served audience in a meaningful way, or work with another company on that long-dormant project that you and your teams have always wanted to do but would take too many hours in the busy season.

As the recession approaches, now is the time to challenge conventional wisdom and go all-in with your marketing initiatives. Those that do will likely come out the other side with a stronger customer base and a healthier bottom line.

About the Author

As global chief strategy officer at OPMGNelson Freitas is responsible for leading integrated digital strategy across several agencies, including RAPP, Critical Mass, and Targetbase. Nelson specializes in partnering with strategic leads at agencies to drive innovation and create scalable strategies for OPMG clients.