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7 Myths About Marketing in Economic Downturns
In an ideal world, the marketing activity would be self-sustaining, would always pay back many times what it costs to perform, and would be effective in reaching every potential buyer in the relevant sector, all the time. But in the blue-sky world, marketing activities are driven by several factors, including perceptions of the company and the chief marketer there, economic forces that drive consumer behavior of all kinds, and factors beyond your control.
As a result of these factors, marketing budgets are dependent on the company’s responses to these perceptions. Many of these perceptions are wrong, distorted, tainted by history, the personal experience of senior management, and most have no historical precedent or foundation.
Myth #1 – “Our brand is strong enough that we don’t need support during the downturn.”
Fact: Few brands are strong enough to survive without advertising, product promotion and customer service support. Brands are like delicate houseplants – they need attention, support, strengthening and polishing (the marketing equivalent of nutrients, light and water) – or they will wither and shrivel to a shadow of their former selves. This is not a position you want your corporate brand to be in when the economy’s growth engine revs up again.
Myth #2 – “If we cut marketing costs, we can use the money for other things internally and increase the budget when things improve.”
Fact: Studies show that once that budget is cut, it takes a herculean effort and a strong internal defender to get it back to its previous levels and even increase, there are much more stringent ROI conditions associated with its implementation. Once those funds are allocated elsewhere, they tend to stay there – after all, that other department doesn’t want to give them up either.
Myth #3 – “No one buys anything, ads and promotions are a waste of money.”
Fact: Many studies conducted by prestigious business publications and university think tanks have reached the same conclusion based on the data they collect on US and in some cases global companies: Those that reduce their presence in their key service markets are in a much worse position in terms of profitability, market share and competitive market presence when the downturn subsides and profitability growth returns than those who maintain their levels of marketing activity. Those companies that are bold enough to increase marketing activity stand a good chance of taking market share from their less aggressive competitors and can rule the category if the downturn continues long enough.
Myth #4 – “We can cut back [on marketing] now and then increase rapidly when things improve.”
Fact: This strategy has proven disastrous time and time again, especially for companies that have inefficiencies inherent in their product design or delivery channel. This inefficiency will not allow them to ‘scale up fast’, as due to the same inefficiency they will effectively always be ‘late’ in timing the market – they are not market leaders but laggards, and thus the scale-up activity starts late in terms of the buying cycle, and their more nimble competitors have already beaten them to a punch.
Myth #5 – “We should check what works for us and eliminate everything else.”
Fact: This is not actually a myth, but a quick reaction to a short-term decline in gross sales. Good marketing departments should do just that all the time, not just when times are tougher. Why would any marketer worth their salt continue programs that don’t work, effectively reducing productivity all around and losing money.
Additionally, every campaign should have metrics built into it so that there is a way to “take the pulse” of its success and allow for mid-course correction to increase effectiveness and consistently increase ROI. In addition, there is a cumulative effect in some channels that blurs perceptions of what works and what doesn’t—there are interdependencies between channels that are not intended or intended, but which live in the customer’s mind and inadvertently drive sales. Cutting out what cannot be accurately measured interferes with this effect, reducing the results for no apparent reason.
Myth #6 – “Marketing spends more money than any other department, they have the most opportunities to cut the budget.”
Fact: While spending may be a measure of power in some corporate structures, at least unofficially, returns are really what matters when it’s time to review the budget. Marketing is one of the few departments that can actually point to the contribution they make directly to the bottom line. There is a proven causal relationship between gross sales and marketing spend for larger and enterprise-sized firms. Increased costs in the IT department may lead to long-term benefits, but better servers often don’t move more products unless the product is server space. Reducing the marketing budget only reduces the available opportunities to build market share, increase awareness and recall of the product in the mind of the consumer and reduces profitability in the long run.
Myth #7 – “All our competitors are cutting back on advertising and media spending to save money, so we should too.”
Fact: This kind of lemming sheep thinking can destroy your company! Your mom knew better than that when you used the excuse “All the other kids will go, why can’t I?” and her response was probably something like “If the other kids jump off the bridge, will you jump too?” Although they are competitors, their financials probably look a little different than yours, and it’s foolish to think you can mirror their moves and be successful – at best, you’ll be equal! The smart money here is on taking market share away from your more timid competitors, by increasing presence and exposure and cutting other less-than-mission-critical costs for a short period to achieve it.
Myth #8 – “We should lower the quality of our marketing materials, use a cheaper creative agency, and mail less often to save money.”
Fact: This set of moves will actually cost you both in the short and long term. You may save a very small extra amount from cheaper paper, shorter, smaller brochures, cheaper brochures, smaller handouts at trade shows – but the damage you do to your brand and the resulting bad publicity it does far more damage to the company as a whole than can ever be repaired by spending those few dollars later to try to fix it.
Not to mention shaking the confidence of your customers by giving them a visual of how badly your company is performing! “God, they must be in trouble, this looks like cheap trash. Maybe I’m better off taking my business to the other company that will probably be around to support their products down the line,” is the thought you’re encouraging by reducing quality in your publicly posted material.
Good design often costs less than bad design because of fewer creative iterations, fewer errors, greater efficiency, and higher returns. Jumping ship from the agency you’re with if they’re delivering dollars spent just to save some cash is stupidly durable. The ramp-up time for a new agency to learn your needs, your products, your style, and your brand will be nearly exhausted by the end of the average recession, and it will cost you more to achieve the same level of performance during that time. just in time to reposition for the new economic conditions.
When times get tough, the tough starts in the marketing department, providing the market with visual proof of your corporate strength, your industry leadership, your market experience and the supporting strength you offer for your products and services. Don’t believe those who want to cut your marketing budget, reduce the number of employees and the quality of your materials. Everything you do here affects the health of your company, and cutting back here shows the most and helps the least.
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#Myths #Marketing #Economic #Downturns