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.

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.

Encouragement

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.

Budget

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 and CEO of 5W Public Relations, one of the largest independently-owned PR firms in the United States. With over 20 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America's most prolific and well-respected Public Relations professionals. Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company's growth, overseeing more than 175 professionals in the company's headquarters in midtown Manhattan. With clients spanning corporate, technology, consumer and crisis, in addition to digital marketing and public affairs capabilities, 5WPR is regularly recognized as an industry leader and has been named "PR Agency of the Year" by the American Business Awards on multiple occasions. Throughout his career, Torossian has worked with some of the world's most visible companies, brands and organizations. His strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, Metropolitan Magazine's Most Influential New Yorker, and a 2020 Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider. Torossian is known as one of the country's foremost experts on crisis communications, and is called on to counsel blue chip companies, top business executives and entrepreneurs both in the United States and worldwide. Torossian has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly on CNN & CNBC, was named to PR Week's "40 under Forty" list, is a contributing columnist for Forbes and the New York Observer, and his book, "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations" is an industry best-seller. A NYC native, Torossian lives in Manhattan with his children. He is a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO), and active in numerous charities.