Recession: Fact or Election Year Fantasy?

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UPDATE: A survey of 100 chief marketing officers (CMOs) by The CMO CLUB (a professional organization for marketing professionals) reveals that,  “Despite reports to the contrary, marketing budgets haven’t been affected by the recent economic downturn.”
According to the survey, released late last week, 71% of respondents said their marketing budgets have not been reduced in 2008.
Good news! Unless you’re an Eyore…
I always used to be irritated by Eyore in the Winnie the Pooh stories… head down, slowly lumbering through life, always looking for the down side… convinced trouble would befall him at every turn. And it did. Of course you can’t help but wonder if that sad, misunderstood creature actually invited all his ill fortune with his negative attitude and expactancy of disaster.
Very much like what the media could be accused of doing with economic news of late. Like you, I’ve hard the word “recession” more times than I can count. And while it IS an election year, and there are people who are really hurting (especially those who bought more house than they could afford, or got in more debt than was sensible) it seems the naysayers are running especially wild. A recent article by Larry Elder appearing in last week’s Jewish World Review hints that the numbers may not be as bleak as the media would have us believe. 
I’m shocked. Shocked and appalled.
Of course everyone’s definition of recession varies — there are all manner of economic indicators and complex forecasts involved. Every so often the definitions are changed or the numbers revised… making it even harder for us non-economists to keep things straight.
One of the most intelligible discussions of recession and its indicators comes from Kristin Graham in a late March article published online by The Motley Foolan online publication dedicated (it claims) to educating, amusing and enriching its readers. If you don’t have time to check out the article now, I’ll give you her refreshingly simple definition — a recession is when the economy is slumping, parts of the economy are moving in the wrong direction and people in general fear for the country’s financial well being. 
Is that where we are? 
If your answer is a trembling “yes” as you glance warily over your shoulder, all is not lost. There are ways to manage your marketing and promotion efforts during tough times. One of many sources you might want to check out are these helpful tips, courtesy of Harvard Business Publishing’s John Quelch, a professor at Harvard Business School since 1979.
He suggests:

  • Rather than cutting out market research, now you need to know more about your customer than ever. This will help you target your advertising more effectively.
  • Use advertising images that are family oriented — replace images of excess (extreme sports, adventure, etc.) with warm scenes of home and hearth.
  • Spend on advertising, though uncertainty might urge you to be cautious, studies show that lean times are when the most ground can be made by promoting your brand while others cut back. If you have to cut back, keep the frequency of your ads, cut the size.
  • Develop and market multi purpose products (or services) over specialized items. As people seek to tighten their belts, they look for products that are a better value. Make yours that value.
  • Work to solidify relationships with vendors and distributors. Just as with advertising, working to build these relationships while others are trying to cut costs and drawing their wagons in a circle can has a huge impact… today and down the road.
  • You don’t have to cut prices during tough times. Instead try offering temporary promotions, change the quantity that activates discounts, give credit to proven customers and price smaller sizes more competitively.
  • Know where your costs are, so that if advertising (or other) cuts do have to be made, they can be as effective as possible without sacrificing all the good things your marketing efforts have achieved.

Even if you’re not worried about the looming recession, these tips offer you some solid marketing and promotion strategies that make sense… both today, and moving forward into that big unknown… the future.

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