“A man who stops advertising to save money is like a man who stops a clock to save time.”— Henry Ford

by Danni Dixon (@dannidixon) What used to keep marketers awake at night (battle for attention and battle for talent) is going to be replaced with the battle for growth with significantly less funds. The battle of relevance (product demand) is rapidly becoming a close second.

A new context

We’re facing a new context, new market realities and unprecedented times ahead. Consumers needs are evolving and their spend is under pressure. Media habits already look different to 2019. New competitors are on their way. Old competitors may cease to exist. Technology, digital transformation and data will continue to evolve and automate, perhaps even faster than before this crisis. We’re entering a time of head-spinning, mind-bending disruption that will radically impact and transform the way we live, work and play. Which brands will survive and which will thrive?

Marketers may think the biggest challenge we face post-coronavirus is the financial impact of the R-word (recession) and the reduction of advertising spend.

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Rita Doherty’s column, #CoronavirusSA: How to grow in a covid-19 recession, published here on MarkLives yesterday, Thursday, 16 April 2020, shows how those who invest in their brand during a recession increase their “share of voice”, which leads to an increase in “share of market.” An increase in market share results in an increase in profits. Now is the time to grow your marketing investment for long-term returns (and not wait to ramp up when things get better — which is pretty much everyone else’s plan).

Role of leadership

I think the post-covid-19 era will separate the strong from the weak, the opportunists from the laggards. We’ve already seen the role of leadership in this crisis and the difference that makes. These two challenges (growth and relevance) create a perfect storm. Smart marketers and brave business leaders should know that this is productive space to do the opposite of what’s expected and truly to lead the way by keep investing in your brand, both for short term growth and long-term value.

It comes down to the difference between marketers who follow and marketers who lead in times like this.

Marketers who follow will invest in the status quo, significantly reduce their spend and adopt the “the wait-and-see” approach or “band-aid” approach (use what you have with small adaptations). They copy and imitate the market sentiment, think only near-term, report only on the bottom line and listen to the C-level popular vote.

Invest in the future

Marketers who lead invest in the future; they innovate, stay original, inspire trust by truly listening to clients and consumer needs so as to inspire product demand, think with long-term vision and perspective, and keep an eye on the horizon. They challenge what they know to be right for their clients and the brands they serve.

My advice for brand leaders and creative thinkers in a recession? Take a leap of faith. Courage is as contagious as fear. The opportunity to be truly creative and iconic has never been greater.

Now is the time to be fearless — to make a stand that will emotionally influence choice over-and-above anyone else and reap market performance by standing out from commoditised categories and quieter competitor space. Your audiences need to know why they must care. We need to find those opportunities to differentiate and be relevant.

Clearly defined

Start with a clearly defined brand purpose that will steer you steadily towards your future and ensure you’re remembered. Brands help to anchor us and fuel our growth. They play a role in society and can bring optimism, reassurance, comfort and hope to the post-covid-19 world.

Marketers should be very busy innovating and strategising, starting new verticals, adjusting product lines and pricing where you must, powering expansion into new categories, launching new integrated campaigns around value and why your brand matters, improving employee morale, building trust and support in your omni-channels and with all your stakeholders. Keeping listening, learning, crafting, optimising and adapting to drive that disproportionate share of voice from your ongoing investment.

Most importantly, marketers need to work with forward-thinking CEOs who understand that managing costs mustn’t come at the expense of maintaining corporate values, building long-lasting relationships and, at the very least, holding or growing your marketing spend to invest long term into brands — which is a proven imperative in surviving a recession.

See also


Danni DixonDanni Dixon (@dannidixon) is an award-winning, results-driven, purpose-inspired CMO. She has a proven history of innovation, strategic communications, creative leadership and brand achievement in financial corporates (recently as head of marketing at Investec), startups (her own agencies) and global network agencies (ex-MD of TBWA\Hunt Lascaris). She’s established a reputation as a transformational leader who’s driven by challenge and influenced brave strategic creative ideas. She is a regular contributor to the marketing industry.

This MarkLives #CoronavirusSA special section contains coverage of how the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and its resultant disease, covid-19, is affecting the advertising, marketing and related industries in South Africa and other parts of Africa, and how we are responding. Updates may be sent to us via our contact form or the email address published on our Contact Us page. Opinion pieces/guest columns must be exclusive.

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