When the going gets tough and consumer spending shrinks with the economy, instinct can tell business leaders to cut down on marketing efforts. But what needs to be done during a recession cannot be further from this.

Yes. Having a grip on cash flow is always a priority, but that shouldn’t mean blindly cutting marketing out of the equation before asking: what am I losing by doing this? The answer is a lot. The opportunity cost could ultimately tip the scales in the wrong direction, leaving you in the losing team during a recession.

In business, you continuously need to pivot and adapt to changing landscapes. Marketing in a recession is no different. Reducing the marketing budget on autopilot because it seems like the easiest cost centre to remove could be one of the worst decisions made. Peer-reviewed studies have shown time and again that typically it is better to maintain marketing spend (or at least, cut back less than competitors) in a recession.

Marketing really needs continual investment to ensure your business navigates the turbulence of tough times and beyond. You may need to just adapt your strategy and approach instead. If you’re stuck on how to adjust your marketing in a recession, here are 5 activities that you should consider:


1. Data is the Real King – Reconsider Your Data Collection Strategy

In marketing, they often say content is king, but it can’t be without accurate insight to ensure it appeals to the right audience. Data ideally fuels all your marketing decisions, and when we’re looking at a recession, this is more important than ever to create marketing campaigns as relevant and inspiring as possible.

As an industry, marketing is increasingly moving toward generating 1st party data due to changing privacy regulations and consumer attitudes, after many years of reliance on 3rd party data particularly in relation to advertising.

Smart marketing should always be looking to capture your audience’s attention and their details, so you can segment your data into more than simply ‘interested’ and ‘not interested’. Capturing data lets you personalise your marketing activities to resonate more and hit the right person, at the right time, with the right message.

1st-party data collection is more challenging for some business models than others. For example, it’s much easier for retailers and direct to consumer brands to collect 1st party data as they already have an existing direct touch point with the customer, while for brands and businesses who sell indirectly to end customers, it’s more difficult but not impossible!

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2. Respond Quickly to Changing Needs by Taking a Holistic View

Understanding the needs, interests and behaviours of your target audience is crucial to any successful marketing strategy. During an economic recession, customer consumption patterns, opinions and the need for certain products or services may change. Marketers must stay aware of these changes, taking a holistic view of the customer online and offline, to anticipate their needs and respond accordingly.

McKinsey research shows that companies that act on their customers’ needs, interests, and behaviours in real time can expect up to a 20% increase in sales. By investing in solutions that can aggregate multiple data sources, brands can understand their customer journey and changing attitudes better and curate tailored offers and messages that improve the customer experience while boosting profits.


3. Revaluate the ‘Watering Holes’

Where are your audience online and offline? Where are their ‘watering holes’?

There are so many channels available to you when it comes to being seen by your audience, that we urge you to consider the ones you are using in 2023, and how you are using them.

There is a chance there are a handful of social media platforms you are already committed to. It’s likely that they are where your audience are, and they engage with your content, so it makes sense to maintenance this presence – but it’s time to test some ‘developmental’ platforms.

Pinterest, for example, is having an ecommerce resurgence. It’s an image-based social platform mirroring Google’s image engine. With over 400 million users, it is a contender in brand marketing. Pinterest users have also been found to be responsive to ads, spending twice as much money as non–users! Brands like Sainsbury’s and Waitrose have been on the platform for some time, running ad campaigns alongside organic feeds.

Or perhaps it’s time for you to consider the re-surging podcast market. Podcasts have been around since 2004, but only more recently have we seen them become a real content marketing tool. There is increased consumer demand for audio–only content, with many listening to podcasts while travelling and multitasking, something they can’t do as easily with visual content. Podcasts give brands and influencer the opportunity to create a deeper connection by getting personal and real with their listeners.

Remember, you don’t need to be on every platform and use every channel but being sure you are on the right ones and engaging with your audience is key. So, going into 2023, re-evaluate which channels you use, both online and offline, to ensure you engage with your audience in the right places.


4. Video!

A whopping 82% of global internet traffic comes from video content in 2022. To not be creating video in 2023 will be to reduce your potential traffic coming your way. Which, in a recession, is not something taken lightly. During a recession, you need to ensure a steady flow of physical and digital “footfall”.

Videos tend to be more captivating than the written word, so it’s a fairly digestible way for consumers to pick up something technical. Short-form video content is reported by HubSpot to drive the best ROI for B2C brands, generating 8% more leads and 14% more engagement than B2B brands using short-form.

40% of businesses in the US have reported that they have not utilised video to its full potential because they’ve not put enough budget behind it. In revenue generation, video has been proven to lead to increased sales. With an ROI that good, it’s important to include it in your 2023 marketing strategy.

Looking at HubSpot’s report in more depth, it becomes apparent that there is a great deal of opportunity to grow online communities around B2C brands through video content, and using this strategy to foster relationships with customers, converting them into life-long brand advocates.

Taking a layered video content approach is advised to hit every part of the buyer journey. Videos that share your brand and brand story for users that need an introduction through to customer reviews and leveraging user-generated content, to creating ‘how-to’ content with your products or related themes, you can establish trust with your audience and build a loyal following that keep on wanting more.


5. Repurpose and Redistribute Your Content

Marketing in a recession doesn’t have to cost the earth, and you don’t need to reinvent every marketing activity. Content is consumed in a variety of ways. To make budget stretch during a recession, try repurposing your content.

Here’s some examples:

  • Taking a blog about saving on your energy bills and turn it into a video.
  • Transforming a series of social media videos and turning them into static social media posts.
  • Repurposing blogs into emails to target more accurately.

It not just saves your budget but time. Because you’ve already done the hard work. You’ve also proven that specific content works, so you’re not going in blind.

Marketing in a recession doesn’t have to be the scary beast you think it is. Money’s tight, consumer spending is down. But cutting your marketing entirely won’t help your cause long-term. Instead, adapting what you’re doing to ensure you still resonate with your customer base is key to survival.

Learn how their spending habits are changing, their priorities, and market gaps. Your 2023 marketing strategy doesn’t have to suffer at the hands of the economy. In fact, there’s much opportunity to be gained – our team are on hand to help you from conception through to execution, and beyond.