On June 6, when the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) officially declared that the U.S. had been in a recession since February, the announcement compounded a difficult situation for marketers already coping with COVID-19.

The subsequent analysis was optimistic that the recession wouldn’t turn into a depression and that it wouldn’t last long.

James Stock, an economist and committee member of NBER, told Newsmax Finance that the worst case scenario could arise if there was a continuation in the chaotic management of the pandemic, no new stimulus, and a second wave of COVID-19, as predicted by some epidemiologists.

Agreement on another stimulus appears dead and many observers agree that management of the pandemic has been mishandled. The only question remaining is whether there’ll be another wave and a longer recession.

The only glimmer of hope came this October, when the International Monetary Fund changed its forecast to a less severe but nonetheless deep recession this year.

A year earlier, in September 2019, personal finance site gobankingrates conducted a survey asking consumers what they would do if a recession were to occur. Cutting down on spending was the biggest response from 40% of respondents. Next were cutting down debt (20%) and increasing the amount in savings (11%). Diversifying income and making plans to downsize tied at 8%.

The top reason is what has seriously affected many brands that don’t market everyday necessities and has created the biggest challenges. Here are some tips for marketing in a recession.

Stay Top of Mind

Even though consumers may be reducing their spending, now’s not the time for marketers to do the same. Remaining top of mind to a brand’s customers is a reassuring sign of strength and reduces the possibility of competition stepping in.

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If faced with a choice, focus more on loyal customers. They’re a brand’s best asset and have already shown their trust, so keep in touch with them frequently via emails, social media posts, blogs, newsletters, special deals, and ads. The primary thing is to stay constantly and frequently in contact.
Consistent Branding

Monthly consistency in messaging target audiences with the same media as above is also important. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but regularity will be key to remaining relevant to customers without breaking the budget.


Brands can be a positive force with consumers in these times by sending positive messages that empower and encourage. It’s important to acknowledge feelings and display empathy. A World Advertising Research Center analysis of 880 case studies discovered that emotional engagement campaigns were more profitable than those focusing on transactional messages, including special offers and discounts during difficult times.

It’s also a good time to check the brand’s tone. Being brash and funny may work during good times but if there’s any uncertainty, conduct an audit to make sure nothing insensitive is on the website, social media and elsewhere.


This is the time to analyze where the brand is getting its best returns and results. Look at each channel to see which ones are delivering the best results and focus the budget there.

Last Step

As always, monitor indicators like KPIs (key performance indicators) to determine which campaigns are performing best. Consider either adjusting or scrapping those that aren’t. Similarly, it may also be timely to reassess and possibly adjust the brand’s marketing goal.
Special attention, monitoring, and adjustments are important during a recession. To quote the lyrics of a popular 1950 Dean Martin song, “Don’t Stop, don’t stop. Go, go, go, go, go!”

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Ronn Torossian is the Founder & Chairman of 5W Public Relations, one of the largest independently owned PR firms in the United States. Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company's growth and vision, with the agency earning accolades including being named a Top 50 Global PR Agency by PRovoke Media, a top three NYC PR agency by O'Dwyers, one of Inc. Magazine's Best Workplaces and being awarded multiple American Business Awards, including a Stevie Award for PR Agency of the Year. With over 25 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America's most prolific and well-respected public relations executives. Throughout his career he has advised leading and high-growth businesses, organizations, leaders and boards across corporate, technology and consumer industries. Torossian is known as one of the country's foremost experts on crisis communications. He has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly in the media and has authored two editions of his book, "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations," which is an industry best-seller. Torossian's strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, a Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider, Metropolitan Magazine's Most Influential New Yorker, and a recipient of Crain's New York Most Notable in Marketing & PR. Outside of 5W, Torossian serves as a business advisor to and investor in multiple early stage businesses across the media, B2B and B2C landscape. Torossian is the proud father of two daughters. He is an active member of the Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and a board member of multiple not for profit organizations.