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Marketing Through Tough Times

by | Sep 16, 2022

Heading into a rocky economic climate, it is tempting, as a business, to panic and cut off any seemingly luxury outgoings.

One of the mistakes that many business owners make is to cut all marketing spend and think they can survive without it. Sure, there are savings to be made, but customer spending doesn’t stop. It may reduce, but people are still spending and, when they do, you want them to think of you and not one of your competitors.

Marketing through a recession

During the 2008 recession, two members of our team were working in broadcast radio advertising. Many advertisers just stopped their campaigns during this time and, as a result, many companies sadly didn’t survive the recession.

One well known Bristol retailer proudly maintained their spend throughout the recession. The most cheerful client to visit during this time. Many of their competitors didn’t survive and yet this company reported their busiest year ever! People were spending, so where did they spend when they needed these products? To the company that was still shouting the loudest.

During 1920’s America, there was a cereal brand called Post which was the market leader. During the Great Depression, Post cut right back on its advertising spend while a lesser-known brand, called Kellogg’s, doubled its advertising spend. They introduced a new cereal called Rice Krispies, featuring “Snap,” “Crackle” and “Pop.” Kellogg’s profits grew by 30% during this time and became the new market leader by some way and has kept this position ever since.

Why should businesses continue to market themselves?

“When times are good you should advertise. When times are bad you MUST advertise.”

This is a well knows saying in the marketing world and the reasons for this are proven:

1. Many of your competitors will stop advertising so the market will be less cluttered so your brand will stand out even more than usual. Market share will increase.

2. Being visible and heard during a recession will give a positive impression of your business remaining successful and cash rich.

3. People are still spending. Not everyone stops spending during a tough economic climate. People still go out, buy cars and furniture, decorate their houses etc. If they are making cuts they will prioritise, so, while some will prioritise this time to stay in more and decorate, others may spend less on tangible things and decide they need to carry on going out or booking weekends away in order to stay positive. Whatever they choose, these are potential customers so you don’t want them to forget about you when they are ready to spend.

4. Your company is more likely to survive as a result of this.

5. Your business will come out of these tough times much quicker than those who stopped marketing and your revenue will grow quicker as you still have a strong presence, so you will be able to increase your marketing spend quicker.

By knowing all of this you are already ahead.


Advertising Smarter

Despite all of this, you may want to make some tweaks or changes to your usual marketing plans to be smarter with your budget. You may want to look at more tangible marketing where you can track the results in more detail. Here are a few tips from us on how to promote your business for free if you’re looking to scale back:

1. Optimise your SEO – If you own a website, make sure to optimise it for search engines like Google. Things like broken links on your site can push down your Google ranking! Have a look at some free beginner tutorials and find out how to get the best out of your website.

2. Google My Business – List your business on Google using its business manager and have it pop up every time someone types in local searches. You can add pictures, information about your business and more, giving customers and clients all the info they need.

3. Social Media – This one is a no-brainer. Social media is at the forefront of the internet, with billions of users across all platforms. List your business on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. and post regularly at the right times and network where possible. You will see growth!

4. Mailing List – Getting together a list of your customer’s email addresses and sending out regular emails to them is a great way to get a message out or promote a product. It’s personal and they will appreciate the contact as long as you don’t bombard them. You can get email addresses via your website or social media, just remember to ask for permissions for GDPR purposes.

It may be a good time to change your messages during tough times to reflect your acknowledgement of the struggle that people may be going through. Maybe introduce price changes, offers, deals, payment plans or loyalty schemes to help your customers and maintain their loyalty to you. Show them you care as people love being comforted through tough times, even if they don’t realise they need it. You can put all your prices back when the economy settles down and your customers will understand.

This doesn’t have to be a dark time for businesses if you play it right. Marketing is an essential part of any business for it to survive from start-up onwards as you need to make your brand known in order for people to buy from you. So rather than panic and stop, just give it some thought on how you wish to keep your name out there and how much spend you want to commit to this to get it right.

One of the best ways to sum up what to do during a tough economic climate came from Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart. When asked “What do you think about a recession?” he responded, “I thought about it and decided not to participate.”


If you need some support with your marketing, Holly Bell Marketing are here to help with professional and creative marketing solutions and social media campaign management. Your business is our business. You’re the hero, and we’re here as your marketing sidekick! If you would like to talk to one of our experts click here for more information.