4 Strategies for Marketing During Times of Uncertainty

This blog post is written by Kathy Floam-Greenspan and appears on the Forbes Agency Council. You can read the full post here.

Economic uncertainty, like the laws of physics, is an inevitable part of a company’s life cycle. What goes up will, at some point, come back down.

For many business leaders, economic uncertainty seems to be coming around a lot more often than it did before.

They may be on to something.

According to the Harvard Business Review, researchers have documented an uptick in economic uncertainty, identifying five modern crises amplifying uncertainty across various sectors. When coupled with the fact that 75% of CEOs expect declining growth in the year ahead and 40% think their company “will no longer be economically viable a decade from now,” it’s no wonder that people feel uncertain about their company’s future.

Often, a leader’s first response to uncertainty is to slash advertising and marketing budgets. For example, one 2022 survey found that 75% of respondents said that “signals of economic downturn” impact their media budget decisions, and 30% plan to cut their budgets in 2023.

However, leaders should be careful not to react too quickly. Nielsen notes that, historically, 75% of recessions last less than a year, and 30% last just two quarters. Economic uncertainty is cyclical, and every down cycle brings challenges and opportunities that will determine a brand’s potential moving forward.

Why does marketing during times of uncertainty matter?

Marketing through uncertainty requires a disciplined, data-driven resolve to maximize the most important outcomes.

For starters, leaders must leverage historical insights to determine potential impact. During the Great Recession, 63% of brands that increased their marketing investment saw positive ROI from their efforts.

What’s more, as Nielsen reports, “Considering most brands are already under-spending—depressing their ROIs by a median of 50%—any additional cutting of media expenses could only serve to reduce ROI further, at a time when brands need to maximize profits most.”

Meanwhile, when brands prioritize marketing spending, they continue to work toward critical outcomes, including:

  • Maintaining brand visibility and staying top-of-mind.
  • Building and strengthening customer relationships.
  • Capitalizing on competitors’ reduced marketing efforts.
  • Adapting to changing consumer behavior and preferences.

Economic uncertainty doesn’t necessarily indicate an imminent downturn, but even when times get tough, companies can still thrive, and the right marketing strategies can help make that possible…