Marketing in a Recession: Continuing to Invest in Your Brand

Downturns mean tough decisions. Take a look at 5 reasons you should protect your brand and come out stronger by investing in marketing during a recession.

Blog Post

5 minutes

Mar 26, 2020

Marketing in a recession has always been difficult, especially for SMBs.

A recession is not what any business leader wants to see happen, and cutbacks in budget and staff are commonplace when they occur.

In the aftermath of the 2008 recession, ad spending in the US dropped by 13% as businesses lost confidence in the economy.

While it can be tempting to target marketing in the midst of an economic downturn, recent history suggests that in fact this will typically be to your detriment.

Bean counters want what’s best for the business, but marketing is a unique case in many ways, if for nothing else because slashing your marketing budget can cause serious damage to your brand in the long-term.

Today, we’re going to be looking at six reasons why you should continue investing in your brand and how it will help position your business for the future.

5 Reasons to Keep Investing in Marketing

1. Keep Your Customers

When the economy takes a hit, everybody is impacted, and marketing in a recession is probably not top of the agenda for concerned businesses.

During these times, you’ll rely more than ever on your existing customers.

A study found that in financial services, an increase in customer retention of 5% produces an extra 25% in profit, and this is true of other industries, too

One of your priorities in hard times should be to keep your current clients happy.

Focus on campaigns that emphasis repeat purchases, up-sell and cross-sell from your other lines of business.

Remember, these are your champions—they will be the ones recommending your company to other prospects—reward them for their loyalty and give them incentives to keep buying your products and services.

2. Get More Attention

When a recession hits, there’s going to be plenty of other businesses that make marketing cuts and, in effect, lose their voice.

After all, marketing in a recession seems counterproductive in many ways.

Be careful not to be another business that retreats into obscurity when trouble hits.

Instead, maintain your outreach; there will be a lot less noise in your market when others are spending less.

Continue your social media output; newsletters, blogs, PR, and anything else which cuts through to your audience.

Social media and websites provide a relatively cheap platform for SMBs, so take advantage of them if you’re cutting back in other areas.

Content marketing generates three times as many leads as outbound marketing and costs 62% less

While other businesses fall silent, you can make a lot of inroads and build your brand in their stead.

3. Project Stability

In times of crises, it’s crucial for a business to stay the course and retain the confidence of its customers.

It’s during these times that their loyalty will be tested the most—they will be reducing their spending and reconsidering any outgoings.

If your organization looks shaky, unprepared, or overstretched, existing clients will lose faith in your ability to serve them.

Organizations that are consistent with their output are 3.5 times more likely to enjoy excellent brand visibility than those who aren’t—in other words, a brand that drastically reduces output in a recession will be in big trouble

Focus on your unique value as a service and organization to give customers a reason to remain loyal to you.

If they see that you can weather a storm and maintain a high profile, they are less likely to question your stability—showing you have the leadership, strength, and confidence to overcome tough times.

Keep your marketing strong, don’t shrink away, and don’t give your customers a reason to doubt the health of your business.

4. Reduced Cost of Advertising

When a recession hits, advertising is usually one of the first names on the list for cuts.

This is a big mistake.

In the recessions of 1981-82 and 1974-75, companies that continued to invest in advertising saw more growth than competitors that shrunk or eliminated their budgets—in 81-82 that growth was a staggering 256%

Of course, it’s understandable that businesses would cut back—SMBs hardly have a blank check at their disposal.

But the fact of the matter is that time and again, savvy businesses that take advantage of the now-cheap buyer’s market in advertising during a recession are the ones who make big gains.

If you’re cutting your advertising during a downturn, you can be sure that a competitor is rushing in to fill the vacuum.

5. Target New Opportunities

A great way of minimizing your losses during a period of stagnation or loss is to look to markets that haven’t been affected as much as others.

For example, healthcare and government are two sectors that have been recession-proof in recent history.

If your typical audiences and markets are being hit hard, think about who else you can target to open up alternative revenue streams.

For larger organizations or businesses that offer products that are easily deliverable, such as digital goods and services, consider even looking overseas at markets that are less affected to make sales.

This would of course take a lot of effort and repositioning, but if it means rescuing yourself from a downtrodden domestic market, you could come out with a great investment.


  • It can be tempting to cut your marketing budget in hard times, but this is a mistake
  • Businesses that continue marketing in a recession can make huge gains during economic downturns
  • Social media and other digital avenues provide a cost-effective way of maintaining your brand exposure during a recession

Digital marketing is a crucial lifeline for SMBs. In times of difficulty, it’s important for businesses to protect their brand, watch their expenditure, and take advantage of new opportunities. If you’d like to work with an experienced team that has helped many brands transform and reach more audiences, look into Impact’s managed marketing solutions today.


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