Communications in a downturn

By Jo Preston on Tuesday, 7 March 2023

Record levels of inflation, high interest rates, a challenging supply chain and the lasting impact of both Brexit and a pandemic is a pretty heady mix for businesses to navigate. And like all parts of a business, marketing and communications will come under scrutiny. But although it’s a bit of a trite phrase, challenge also creates opportunities. In times of difficulty, people form attachments to brands. They look for behaviours they trust, and they stay loyal.

The challenges aren’t small. According to PWC’s consumer sentiment survey in 2022, 78% of all consumers are cutting back on spending across multiple categories. Cost is more of a driver of decision making; Deloitte reported a 400% y-o-y increase in customers looking for cheaper brands in order to save money. However, for financial services companies there are some interesting changes in consumer behaviours during recessions. 40% of people in 2017 said they would want to pay down debt in the next recession and 11% increase their savings.

All of this creates real opportunity – to resonate with your audiences. To live your brand values. To listen, and engage, through all your earned and owned channels. That can be done through product development or rewards; or through education – tips, toolkits, workshops, webinars. The big thing is to understand your target audience and what they need to hear, and see, from you as a business. Track consumer sentiment, monitor google trends, keep pace with the news agenda. And respond. It’s nothing more than your customers deserve: 2022 research by Reach found that 60% of people EXPECT support from brands to get them through tough economic times.

And this investment is proven to pay off. Past downturns have shown us that brands that continue to invest in their share of voice reap the long term rewards. After the 2008 recession brands that invested in digital share of voice saw 4.5 times annual share of market growth. So, while it’s incredibly easy to want to shut up shop and pause activity, it’s worth pausing and considering the long term benefits of maintaining your spend, and being brave.