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SME Branding Lesson #19 – Brand Strategy and the Recession

branding in a recession
Saving in the wrong place – an easy mistake in the world of branding and marketing

It’s much talked-about in the media and favourite subject of a lot of marketing agencies – for good reason. An economic downturn inevitably means budget cuts, and marketing, design and advertising budgets are often conceived to be the outgoings which businesses can live without.
Of course everybody who knows even just a little bit about market positioning, purchasing cycles and consumer behaviour knows that this is a bit of a trap a lot of SMEs fall into. Because it is so hard to track the ROI (return on investment) of marketing elements, such as a new brochure design, an updated website or even a fully fledged re-brand, businesses find it hard to see why they have to keep the work up in order to reap the rewards.
I like to think of it as one of the vital habits of business. Just the way you can’t expect your teeth to stay clean if you stop brushing them because you are short of time (or toothpaste), you can’t expect your brand to flourish and grow if you don’t keep working on getting your brand message out there. So in that sense, all that marketing talk is very true. I do however think that the recession does give more than the challenge of continuing marketing activities to benefit from gaining market positions due to competitors bailing out or lying low.
When money is tight, creativity becomes extra valuable. Creativity allows to stretch a brand, to tweak out new methods of getting it out there, to household with budgets and still stand out with truly beneficial messages, information, services or products instead of  expensive gimmicks. Looking beyond the print and online marketing could yield inexpensive answers that retain existing customers and get your brand talked about.
Consider some of the following:

  • Have you clearly defined your target market or are you ‘carpet bombing’ and thus having increased spending without guaranteed response?
  • How can  you add value to your existing customers – can you share some expert knowledge that will help them and set you apart from competitors?
  • How do your target audiences engage with your brand? Is there a way to reach them that does not require expensive ad campaigns?
  • Do you have a single focus product or service that is the core of your brand and that convinces new and existing clients? Are you pushing this or are you in danger of diluting your brand by trying too many other things that may or may not increase business?
  • Do you excel through excellence in your field – and in the way you treat your customers? Are there ways you can improve the interaction between your brand and consumers with staff training, brand understanding and focusing on delivering an amazing experience?
  • Are you talking to the right people?
  • Could you use the press to gain some coverage through interesting stories?
  • Is your brand easy to recognise? Is your existing marketing material adding to your brand and are you proud to share it?
  • Do you spend your time and resources on perceived ‘free’ marketing, such as social, because it works for  you or just because everybody else does it?

Each business is individual and has individual challenges. The recession is not great for most of us (money lenders and crooks not counting). It is however a definite opportunity to drive a brand forward and gain momentum when the competition seems to stand still…

brand management, brand positioning, creativity, marketing, recession

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