A Tall Glass of Lemonade, Please

History shows that marketers who continue to spend come out more successful on the other end of a downturn. The news hasn’t been pretty of late.

It seems that everything we hear or read leads us to one conclusion – to quote the great philosopher Chicken Little – the sky is falling.

Retail sales predictions for the holiday season are dismal. Home sales, car sales, well, need I go further?

So, can there possibly be a bright spot in this mess we call an economic slowdown?

Actually, there can. Some brands will inherently do well. Discount retailers and warehouse clubs are already showing upward trends in same store sales, as are fast food restaurants where a family can be fed for under $20. When people feel the money pinch, they go to where their money will spread the furthest.

Even some entertainment brands will do well. Historically, movie theaters have been safe havens for people looking to escape the omnipresent stories of bad days on Wall Street, economic bailouts and job losses.

But what if you’re not a discount retailer or a safe haven in the storm?

Marketing budgets tighten when the economy tightens. But history shows that it’s not the marketers who curtail their advertising during recessionary times, but rather those who continue to spend, who come out more successful on the other end of the downturn. With consumers thinking, weighing, considering every purchase and every expense, it is more critical than ever for your brand to be in that consideration set.

Learning from the Great Depression and previous recessions, it was marketers like GE, Disney, HP and Kellogg who advertised and continued to create demand for their products – the ones that didn’t drop out of sight – that retained consumer trust and loyalty.

While it may not be business as usual, continuing to communicate is key to letting people know that you’re still in business, and in it for the long haul. A brand they can rely on and trust, no matter what is happening around them.

That’s not to say that your messaging doesn’t have to evolve and remain relevant to the times. Frankly, your messaging should be doing that no matter what shape the economy is in. Consumers expect brands to evolve with them, or ideally, just ahead of them. So what can you say that will matter to them right now when they need you most?

While it will vary from brand to brand and industry to industry, the simple answer is you need to let them know why your brand is relevant, how you’re adapting to the current market situation for the better, and how they will be better off if they come along with you for the ride.

For some brands, this will mean a price/value message. For others it will be a message of trust and stability. But whatever your message, or whatever your product transforms to, it must remain true to your brand essence. Because even if you reinvent yourself to remain competitive and relevant, it’s not the time to confuse consumers by straying too far from your core.

So, transform. Reinvent. Be relevant. Be visible. Be there for your customer…and they will be there for you. It’s like they say…when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

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