One thing that this year has taught us is that the future is like the past right up until it isn’t. We’re living through a disruption of “normal” life across every stratum of culture and society at a level that is unprecedented in our lifetime.
That’s not exaggeration or hyperbole. The world is crazy AF right now.
When it seems everything around us is on the attack, it can feel like the best thing to do is retreat and retract. At times, being pragmatic and creating a solid defense can be the right strategy. It certainly FEELS right. But is it?
As we move into the fallout of the pandemic and recession looms, what should brands do: retreat or advance?
No one can tell you the right answer for your brand but you. That said, there are some data- driven truths that can help you decide and chart your course into oncoming headwinds.
Truth 1—History still matters
It has been shown over time that brands that retreat during a recession have a hard time recovering on the other side. Studies show that brands that cut spending have a flat to modest recovery, and over 60% of brands that go dark weaken the brand equity and further damage its chances of a healthy recovery. These represent only two data points of many, and each reinforces that to retreat can equal defeat for brands. The flip side is that the brands that do engage and continue to seize opportunities even in tough times can see up to 5X growth in the recovery period.
Truth 2—Keep up with your consumers
More than any time in recent history, consumer habits are changing, because they have to, and many will likely not change back. Is your business as relevant as it was at the start of the year? If not, business agility is now more important than ever: Commit to speed and lean into change. The goal has to be to change alongside consumers’ needs and be there for them in new ways.
This will lead to increased trust with consumers because you are meeting them where they need you to be and not assuming they come to you. This care will lead to increased brand equity, which could be a critical factor in how consumers choose brands as they tighten their belts through recession.
Another way to succeed and continue to grow your brand equity is through purpose. If your brand means more to consumers because they are aligned with your purpose, then that is another reason to choose you over a competitor. Now might seem like the time to pull back from the community and your charitable giving, but it’s actually the exact opposite.
This all may seem risky, but now is the time to take some creative risks to keep your brand relevant and loved as the economy retracts.
Truth 3—Ambidextrous actions work
With so much to focus on, where do you start? Where you put your effort is more important now than ever. Start playing the short game, but don’t forget the long game. This moment demands short-term action, but not short-sighted action. Do what you need to do to keep your business moving, but don’t abandon your long-term goals that will ultimately nurture a healthy company.
Focus on your share of voice. The larger your voice in culture through social, digital platforms and earned conversations, the more you can absorb having to pull back on your marketing budgets.
One proven way to grow your voice is by amplifying the emotions in your communications. The more emotionally charged content is proven to have a higher ROI and make a longer impression on consumers. Getting emotional with your creative leads to that creative being more valuable for your business overall.
Last is to consider the Golden Rule. For a brand to generate distinction, preference and value with consumers as well as build equity that creates more significant business impact in the future, consider investing your budget in a 60/40 ratio, brand to activation. Even now in this moment we can’t lose sight of the long game that will allow for future growth.
Truth 4—Leadership matters
Leadership can be a secret weapon in times of adversity. It can be the difference between a team that is focused, proactive and overcoming vs. anxious, fearful and reactive.
It starts with planning ahead. Bring together your leadership team or smaller groups within your organization and start planning realistic scenarios that could become road maps in the future. They won’t be perfect, but at least you will be moving in a positive direction.
Optimism coupled with transparency is also critical in times like these. Your teams need to know that you see a way through the current moment but also need a true understanding of the stakes and difficult choices that these times require.
Don’t lose sight of your values. If you truly believe in them, they will keep guiding you and your organization while providing consistency for individuals on your teams.
We’re all up against historical headwinds that are changing the world around us, and we must change with it or be swept away by it. Now is the time to be bold and chart a course into what’s coming with clear eyes and a steadfast heart.
If that sounds like something that will help, know you’re not in it alone. We’re here to help, and that can start with an email. We’re at your service. And that’s the Truth.