It’s 2008, and I’m at Disneyland queuing for the Tower of Terror. When I joined the line an hour ago I was buzzing. Excited, chatty, and confident this was the ride for me. Now I’m on the final approach, and I haven’t spoken to my boyfriend for ten minutes. I’ve morphed into a nervous nelly. And when this happens, I don’t speak. My brain is far too busy pawing through all its anxious thoughts while my eyes dart between watching what everyone else is doing, and pin-pointing an escape route. We’re psychologically programmed during periods of uncertainty to take a bit of a ‘chin down’ approach. Paralysed by the unknown, we pause to maintain self-preservation. Fear of the unknown can be crippling. But I’d been there before – terrified of Space Mountain and then went round three times in a row. So why the hell wasn’t I learning from the past. Can you see where I’m going with this?
Hold onto your hats and glasses
There are four P’s your brand has to generate value; Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. In nervous times, the last P is often the first for the chop. But unless you’re saving cash to simply survive, or because you can no longer provide your service, cutting ad budget relative to your competitors is an extremely high risk strategy and opens you up to losing sales and, crucially, market share. In a recession, as with so many things in life, it’s important to ensure you’re P-ing properly.
A shift in consumer behaviour results in a diminishing role for short-term sales activation. But it’s dangerous to assume that should lead directly to ceasing promotion. There’s a plethora of research that’s screaming at us to maintain or increase ad spend to ensure recovery and continued growth. It’s the age-old smackdown between short-term tactical and longer-term strategic actions. And as the majority of ad spend tends to be tied up in multi-year activity; cutting it off isn’t just affecting your brand now – it’s exposing it to long term damage.
You should have thought about this when you joined the queue
So that paragraph’s convinced you to pick up your advertising again. Super news. The only downside is this is something you should have done months ago. The issue with a recession is that they’re usually identified and acted on retrospectively. Fail to prepare and all that.
If you want to take full advantage of a future recovery, you need to invest well before it arrives. The IPA cites it’s typically six months before increased sales or share can be attributed to brand building activity. Which just happens to be the exact same amount of time declining GDP needs to be published before we can officially use the ‘R’ word. Decisions we make right now on marketing investment don’t just affect us today, but will have big consequences through 2023 and beyond. Make the right one.
A quick reminder though – this isn’t just about shouting louder, it’s about shouting the right things, too. In a recession your brand is scared. So are the humans you rely on to stay in business, so a demonstration of humanity, understanding, and generosity in your advertising can go a long way. Be helpful. Be aware. Be Fierce.
Exit through the gift shop
I went on the Tower of Terror, and was terrified. But if I hadn’t done it, everyone else in the queue would have experienced that unique, adrenaline-soaked high, while I stood holding their coats. Clamming up and watching everyone else thrive wasn’t really for me, it turned out.
I even picked up a souvenir keyring on my way out. Something to remember that day. Turns out it can be helpful to look back 15 years and learn from experience. Don’t you think?