Just Keep Spending

by Patricia Fitzgerald

There’s been a lot of doom and gloom around an immanent recession, with the likes of Jamie Diamond sounding the alarm. And while rumors of the economy’s death may be (to quote Mark Twain) greatly exaggerated, there’s no doubt we’re in uncertain territory — fueled by global inflation, the pandemic that just will not go away, supply chain disfunction, climate gone crazy, and more.

Before we run the risk of being mistaken for economists (ha, not likely), let’s veer back to a subject we’re definitely more versed in: marketing. Given that we’re not out of the recession woods just yet, should you put a kibosh on your marketing spend? In a word: no.

When economic rumblings call for a tightening of the belt, businesses instinctively look first to their marketing budget. Just think back to the Great Recession of 2008, when the ad market dropped 13%. All signs point to a repeat performance; Ebiquity reports that nearly 30% of the largest advertisers are planning to cut marketing budgets in 2023.

The question is: should they?

Say no to the slash.

While slashing your marketing budget may feel like playing it safe, the data says otherwise. Harvard Business Review researchers found that companies who maintained their marketing spends — and in fact spent more — during an economic downtown came back in an even stronger position post-recession. And another study found that 60% of advertisers saw a bigger return on their investment by increasing their marketing spend during past recessions.

While we don’t wish a recession on anyone (especially small businesses), economic downturns can usher in some unique opportunities. Here’s what we mean.

Fill the void.

Chances are, in tough economic times your competitors are going to pull back on their marketing efforts — leaving a void and a lot less noise to cut through. Who better to fill that void, than you? When your competitors disappear from their customers’ radar, this is your opportunity to capture more mindshare, and more eyeballs. So when customers are ready to spend money again, who will they remember? That’s right: you.

Calm your customers.

Keeping up with your marketing efforts during a downturn goes a long way to reassuring your customers that you’re still here — and that you’re not going anywhere. This means they’ll be more likely to stick with you through good and bad times, and less likely to wander somewhere else. You’ll want those loyal customers there when the money starts flowing again.

Swoop in for the deal.

As companies pull back on marketing spends, you’ll start to see lower pricing across the spectrum of marketing expenses: from ad buys, to printing costs, to agency fees. Vendors will be hungry for your business, and more likely to offer you great deals on a variety of marketing services. Take advantage of that!


A recession can be a great time to reassess your business model as well as marketing strategy to see if there’s a better way to reach wary customers. Could you move your business online? Should you leverage more digital media to reach customers, and measure results? Can you reposition your product or service to be more recession-proof? Maybe now is a good time to reach out to your customers to see what they want and need — and how you can better respond.

Meet the moment with your message.

While you shouldn’t stop marketing your business during a recession, you’ll probably want to adjust your marketing message. We’re big proponents of building a brand, but when driving sales and revenue is a top priority, you may want to shift your focus to a selling proposition.

Remember: During a recession, your customers are also looking for ways to lower their costs. So consider how your service or product can help them save money. Then make sure you clearly communicate that message with every marketing communication you put out there.

You may also want to focus your marketing investments on channels that let you track and measure results — such as pay-per-click campaigns — to make sure you’re getting the most bang for each buck.

Whether a recession materializes or not, we’d be happy to discuss ways to maximize your marketing budget. Drop us a line.

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