The Art of Pretence: marketing in tough times
They say there’s no sentiment in business but in fact it’s sentiment that drives everything in business. Part of the problem in difficult economic times is that people expect things to be difficult. A downturn can be no more than negative reaction to an event that is unexpected or perceived to have merely the potential to be threatening. Shares are hurriedly sold, sales drop, companies downsize. And a ripple effect runs through the market.
There’s a knee-jerk reaction from many companies to cut back on staff, production and marketing – the latter being the route of least resistance. Cut back on advertising and you’ll be okay. But the effect of this merely serves to ensure you will sell less. Not only that, but your brand will suffer as people begin (very quickly) to forget your name.
Keeping your brand vibrant
When the economic climate is poor, this is the perfect time to drive your brand name as boldly as ever. Sales or loss of sales are one thing – but keeping your name alive in front of the noses of consumers despite a lack of spend, will probably be your most important marketing strategy – one that will pay dividends once the market improves.
We’re talking about the art of pretence – not pretending really and certainly not lying – but using the art, science and philosophy of marketing to enhance image, imply success, and to continue to elicit desire to purchase as if nothing is wrong. In this way both customers and competitors will perceive your company as successful even if the economic outlook is grim. You are still there, stable, reliable and confident. While sales might drop and competitors shrivel, your brand must never be allowed to reveal any kind of struggle.
This perception, this image – this façade if you like – will affect consumers positively. While they may not buy during this time, what you build in their minds is the desire to do so the moment they achieve an improvement in their financial situation. This is the time to reassure, to promise better things to come and to get to know your customers more closely. And when better relationships are forged in times of difficulty, they tend to remain as strong ties in the future.
Working that budget
In tandem with putting on a brave face – the pretence if you like, that all is well – you’ll need to revise your marketing budget but definitely not cut it. This is not the time to focus on less marketing but more. Clever advertising can still be done on lower budgets. The beauty of online marketing channels is that they are cost-efficient, easy and fast to execute. There are many niche markets to choose from – and with the technology available to accurately measure the impact of your efforts, you are able to make considered decisions in the planning of cohesive, multi-channel campaigns.
In down times, creativity can flourish. There’s nothing like adversity to generate innovation. When you advertise your products or services in noticeably canny ways, your company is seen as a leader showing fortitude under pressure, motivation under challenge, ingenuity despite financial constraint. Your business is seen as admirable, a powerhouse. And all of this inspires the market and makes people feel better about their own circumstances.
Discounts and promotions
These should be used as a loss leader, not as an act of desperation. Helping people through times of trouble with specials and free samples and worthwhile competitions, helps to build a loyal customer base and keeps your brand accessible and customer-friendly. None of this may bring in much profit during a difficult time, but at least you are strengthening your brand, you appear successful – a psychological advantage over competitors who have pulled back rather than marching boldly forward. Perception of value, once lost, is difficult to re-establish when the markets inevitably bounce back.
Don’t forget the power of PR. Keep consumers up to date on every change, new idea or development. This is a time when your social responsibility programme should get an airing, so don’t keep too quiet about good deeds. All you need is a good writer and the time it takes to email or mail out your own press releases. Create positive newsworthy stories about your company whenever possible. Never let an opportunity to communicate good things slip by.
So while your competitors are backing down, you are becoming more visible. There’s no need to hide until the economy recovers. Articles, networking, planning events, sponsorships will continually ensure your brand remains top of mind. Your customers may not be buying right now, but you’re giving them good reasons to choose you over a competitor when things turn around. Keep them feeling good. And to do this you need a clear strategy, open to seizing opportunities as they arise. Re-evaluate your marketing resources, reinvest in what works, and pour focus and energy into your brand.
‘Pretence’ at work
Did you know the entire cosmetics industry was born in the midst of the Great Depression? Giving women the opportunity to look better with affordable products when times were bad worked a charm. It inspired hope for better things – and those small beginnings burgeoned in better times to become one of the biggest industries in the world. The Hollywood entertainment explosion began during this time as well. In fact anything that provided respite to the daily grind of survival – even if it was superficial and a mere pretence at normality – did well. Because in the midst of an economic crisis, people still have to live.
Perhaps the most famous ‘pretence’ marketing was Cadbury’s brilliant campaign during WW2. Throughout this time they never ceased advertising – even though the factory wasn’t producing any chocolate. By the time the war ended and production resumed, people were crazy for Cadbury’s chocolate. And it’s still one of the top selling chocolate brands in the world.
Our vision is your vision
Gawk Visual Engineers aim to help you keep your brand alive through thick and thin. We help you by creating visual branding solutions to meet your requirements for successful marketing campaigns across a broad range of applications. Our versatile product range, coupled with cutting-edge in-house design, development and production capability, and a reputation for continuing innovation, has made us a vibrant and sought-after supplier in the industry.
Find out more about us at: www.gawk.co.za