What’s the worst thing you can do during an economic downturn?

Here’s your answer: cut the marketing budget. That’s it in a nutshell. When times are tough do not – one more time – do not cut your marketing spend.

It’s tempting though, right? Marketing is often seen as a bit of a luxury. Something to do when times are good. But as soon as times are bad budgets are often slashed quicker than you can say nightmare on Wall Street.

The Bellwether Report, published by Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) in January 2009 for the 4th quarter of 2008, reported a massive decline in marketing spend; the biggest reduction in the survey’s nine-year history.

It prompted Moray MacLennan, IPA President to say “given that marketing and creativity are the solution and not the problem [my emphasis], it will be interesting to see when the investment community starts to look favourably on those who maintain budgets and increase share of voice, as they are more likely to succeed in the future.”

Cutting your marketing budget is short term strategy. And it’s short-sighted. In fact you should increase your marketing spend during tough times. Why? Because

If your competitors have stopped marketing, your brand will be louder and stronger and get you a bigger share of the market.

It sends out a clear message to your customers: you can trust us; we’re in this for the long-haul.

Of course, now’s a good time to negotiate some cracking deals in old school media (TV, radio and press). But also think about new ways of reaching your customers. And spend that budget on social media marketing, using sites such as Facebook, Flickr and Twitter.  

And remember, people do keep spending. Even during a recession. Sure, there may not be so many impulse buys. And people might think a bit more about a purchase. But when they do want to buy you’d better make sure it’s your product or service they think of first and not that of your competitors’.

So what was the marketing spend for the 1st quarter of 2009 like? According to April’s Bellwether Report the rate of the decline has slowed and business confidence has picked up.

Moray MacLennan, IPA President, “this data supports the view that the bottom of the market has been reached. It will be a long road to full recovery, but this maybe the turning point.  It’s good to see a graph going in the right direction for a change.”


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