6 Ways Brands Can Respond In A Recession

Derrick DayeAugust 15, 20193 min

Some economists believe that markets are cyclical, others see them as random. But all agree that economics is about deciding what’s valuable, and in times of uncertainty people re-evaluate what is valuable in their lives and what is not. So when uncertainty grows and recessions loom brands should see the signals and think about how they are going to remain valuable to those most important to their future.

During the last recession brands adopted a variety of tactics to respond to changing consumer attitudes and behaviors. A JWT study from 2009 found that most approaches fit into six buckets: optimism, humor, nationalism, nostalgia, empowerment and value/price.

Today, as weaker market signals flash, let’s take a look at those approaches and think about how they can or would apply to your brand in a downturn.

1. Optimism: During crisis, people learn to live with losses (jobs, homes, savings) and uncertainty, making them more sensitive to what really matters. As in every extreme change and loss situation, people start pondering the meaning of their lives. Brands can provide a positive lift by inspiring consumers with optimism. Being the beacon for optimism in a world of dim circumstances can prove a powerful differentiator.

2. Humor: Brands can make light of a dismal situation through recession humor. Humor, the most retained form of advertising and messaging can magnetize your brand to those looking for an escape. Ask yourself, If you could make your customer feel one thing, what would it be? If there is ever a time when happiness is more valued, it’s during a recession.

3. Nationalism: If you can make the claim, make a point of emphasizing the positive impact that doing business with your Made In USA brand has on the local economy. Recession marketing strategy must address the economy in your customer’s world. Remember, that world could have a small radius. Make the case that your brand helps stimulate their economy.

4. Nostalgia: Anxiety and nostalgia go hand in hand—when times are tough, it’s only natural to seek comfort in memories of what seems like a simpler era. Think of how you can remind your customers that you have been with them in good times and bad. Give them a lens to the better world you shared together and the bigger future you will create with them.

5. Empowerment: Making your customer feel like they have greater control will help strengthen your brand in challenging times. Look to be the leading provider of choice — payment plans, different sizes, options or experiences that give control back to your customer will increase your value to them.

6. Price And Value: Consumers will make all sorts of value assessments in response to anxiety, so it is no surprise that the vast majority of recession-related work revolves around value and price. Strategically rolling out price promotions, savings or discounts, as well as value or “more for less” messaging, can motivate consumers to buy in a depressed economy. However, it is important to use the strategy sparingly. Be the brand that discounts, not a discount brand.

Recession Marketing: There And Back Again?

Thinking back to The Great Recession (December 2007 – June 2009), brought me to an interesting place on Branding Strategy Insider. Here we focused on recession marketing strategies in the 22 thought pieces we wrote on the topic. All of them I found quite relevant for when the next recession strikes.

We may not be headed for a recession, but we can and should be prepared for one.

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