Studio Ostendo operates in multiple creative fields including photography, design, and education.
Recession. It's a topic that comes in big, looming waves. Indeed, the predictions are usually ominous. However, for smart marketers and brand designers, this situation presents a tremendous opportunity to not only excel in marketing efforts during the downturn but also to come out the other side stronger than ever. The key lies in nurturing one essential aspect: your brand.
In the fitness industry, there's a well-known saying that states 20% of the desired outcomes stem from the gym, while 80% result from the kitchen (believe me, I was a certified personal trainer for 6-years!). Essentially, you can't overcome a poor diet with exercise alone. I believe this philosophy applies equally to companies aiming to outshine their competitors in marketing.
No matter how much content you generate, without a robust brand foundation—comprising core values, compelling messaging, and a solid strategy—you simply cannot produce effective marketing. And even if you do, it’s more like striking gold once rather than a repeatable strategy.
“You cannot overcome a weak brand through content alone."
Therefore, with a the threat of recession potentially looming, now is the best time for introspection. Double down on successful tactics, scale back on endeavors that fail to yield results, and strengthen areas that require improvement. This process starts with a critical evaluation of your brand, as it permeates far beyond your marketing efforts alone.
A recession brings numerous challenges for a company, extending beyond the risk of losing customers. Your industry, reputation, and recruitment endeavors are all susceptible to adverse effects. Failing to navigate these obstacles effectively can result in long-term losses. However, there is good news: by investing in your brand during this period, you can safeguard yourself in five essential ways. These strategies are vital for positioning yourself as a market leader once the economy rebounds.
During times of recession, marketers often face the challenge of accomplishing more with limited resources. This means that every piece of content you create must have a significant impact. If your existing brand lacks clarity or fails to resonate with your target audience, your marketing and sales teams will have to work harder. This uphill battle becomes even more challenging during a recession.
On the other hand, when your brand is well-defined and aligned with your business goals and your clients' needs, your marketing efforts become more resonant. You will effectively reach the right audience, consisting of enthusiastic individuals who are eager to purchase from you. In fact, you can even transform sales into an art of facilitating purchases from devoted believers.
The crucial starting point for achieving this lies in refining your brand. It involves articulating your brand's core values, clarifying your brand strategy, and developing strong messaging.
Each of these actions can yield significant marketing improvements in the long run. Remember, a strong brand provides you with clarity and a clear direction, enabling you to channel the rest of your energy into devising the most effective methods for creating exceptional marketing.
One of the common mistakes made by companies, particularly in the SaaS industry, is considering brand as a non-essential or a luxury during prosperous times. These are the individuals who view a brand solely as a logo and are more likely to dismiss any genuine efforts to update and enhance the brand during favorable circumstances. However, a brand is far from being fluff. During challenging times, it becomes the lifeblood of your business.
The positive aspect of a recession is that it often triggers a shift in leadership mindset, transitioning from a "don't fix it if it ain't broke" mentality to a proactive approach of seeking changes to survive. If you hold a brand or marketing role, my professional advice is to reframe this period as an incredible opportunity to establish your ideal brand. With business slowing down and fewer ongoing campaigns and initiatives, you now have the chance to delve deeply into the work required to become the brand that buyers will gravitate toward in the future. In certain cases, this may be a once-in-a-decade opportunity to dedicate time to this crucial task.
Leverage your CEO or C-suite's desire to drive impactful actions, often fueled by their need to demonstrate proactive engagement to their team or investors. This provides an opening to obtain the necessary buy-in for your brand-related initiatives.
During recessions, companies often implement cost-cutting measures that prioritize only the most essential aspects of their operations. As a result, your product or service may be at risk of being discontinued.
If your brand appears generic and lacks differentiation, particularly if you resort to desperate-looking flash sales tactics that inundate B2B buyers, it diminishes the perceived value of your offering. This makes it easier for customers to opt for alternatives or go without your product or service altogether.
However, if you position yourself as a unique brand with a well-regarded reputation, you convey reliability and sustainability. This instills trust in your customers and fosters a desire to continue investing in your product or service because they perceive it as a valuable and worthwhile choice.
Remember: Your brand is the story you tell your customers—and the story they tell themselves and others about your company.
In order to succeed, it is crucial for your customers to be able to distinguish your business from your competitors. If your brand lacks a strong and distinctive strategy, it becomes challenging to stand out in the market. On the other hand, by developing a robust brand strategy, you not only differentiate yourself but also establish meaningful connections with your customers. This is achieved by aligning values, goals, and other important aspects. These customer relationships, built on shared values and goals, can be a valuable asset in navigating through challenging times and ensuring your business's survival.
84% of B2B buyers would buy from a supplier who they had a great relationship with—even if the terms of business were less preferential. —Sana 2022 B2B Buyer Report
Fortunately, if you haven’t done much brand work before a recession, all is not lost. As they say, “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, the second best time is now.”
During a recession, consumer buying behavior undergoes changes, which further evolve during the recovery phase. Market needs and desires shift, and sales cycles transform. Relying solely on the strategies that led to pre-recession success is a risky proposition.
During a recession, no one is coming with a life vest.
However, investing in your brand provides you with a solid foundation and a guiding principle to adapt, grow, and evolve at every stage. Your Brand Heart keeps you rooted in your core values, enabling you to make sound business decisions for your employees and customers. Your brand strategy serves as a compass for navigating the market. Remarkably, during recessions, top-tier brands that successfully adapt consolidate their position as market leaders and even strengthen their standing, despite experiencing challenging years. When the market begins to recover, these brands are often the first to experience significant growth, surpassing their competitors.
Brands that fail to adapt swiftly find themselves struggling for relevance, often witnessing their market share being devoured by more agile competitors, including emerging players who view market changes as opportunities to exploit and gain an advantage.
Successful leaders understand the value of taking a proactive approach, and C-level executives will be impressed if you present this as an opportunity to seize the initiative. By fortifying your brand foundation, you can make decisive decisions and pivot swiftly, emerging as a clear winner in the market.
The success of your business is not solely dependent on your customers; your employees are equally crucial. Building a brand that attracts top talent is one of the most effective ways to future-proof your organization.
While recessions often lead companies to implement hiring freezes or reduce headcount, it's important to recognize that your employees, their determination, and their choices will ultimately determine your ability to adapt and thrive. As boundaries blur between personal brands, employer brands, and public-facing brands, achieving brand consistency becomes paramount. Therefore, it is more vital than ever to create a comprehensive brand that resonates not only with your current employees but also with potential future hires and the marketplace at large.
Whether your company experiences growth during the recession or maintains a holding pattern until the economy rebounds, updating your talent brand should be a part of your broader branding efforts. It's worth noting that during the financial crisis, this concept was relatively unfamiliar to most companies. However, in today's landscape, with platforms such as Glassdoor and other job and company review sites, cultivating a deliberate employer brand has become a critical component in the mission-critical endeavor of recruiting, assembling, and retaining a world-class team.
Even if you already possess a strong public-facing brand, investing in your employer brand during this recessionary period will yield long-term dividends for your organization.
If you want to emerge as the standout player in your market during this recession, it's crucial to take action now. Start your journey by following these steps:
However, it's important to note that this is an extensive process that requires dedicated effort and cannot be completed in isolation or overnight. If you need expert guidance to navigate through the journey, consider our tips for selecting the right creative agency for your project. Additionally, take a look at our branding FAQs for further insights. If you feel the need for support, don't hesitate to reach out to us. We have a track record of assisting renowned brands in discovering their brand identity and successfully bringing it to the market. We would be thrilled to do the same for you.