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Stay Visible & Relevant Or Lose Loyal Customers During The Downturn

This newsletter article discusses the importance of creating demand during an economic downturn to retain brand loyalty and come out strong at the back end. To do so puts a burden on knowing one’s target audience intimately, and having the right brand strategy tools to obtain this understanding.


Out of Sight, Out of Mind

There is no shortage of articles in the business literature regaling the success of companies that seized the opportunity to maintain, or even increase their advertising budgets during past recessions, eventually emerging much stronger than their competitors. Knee-jerk reactors who cut ad spending often suffered damaging consequences coming out of the slump. They fell far behind not only in sales and market share, but more importantly, they failed to retain the loyalty of their users, ultimately developing a tarnished image overall as they drifted out of sight and minds. As the economy improved, “catch-up” became a formidable challenge and nearly unattainable.

Maintaining or increasing advertising is, understandably, a difficult argument when faced with declining coffers and bulging expenses. But history shows, time and again, rewards will come to those who spend wisely.


Does This Feel Right To Me?

Especially true during a recession, it is critical to ensure that target communications are effectively focused. As it becomes more challenging to create demand in a weakened economy, there is far greater need to have an in-depth understanding of the target and their specific needs as situations have changed.

  • Beyond quality, value, and environmental-related messages, conscious consumption will likely drive purchase behavior more than ever.
  • The expenditure will have to “feel smart” to be compelling, not just be affordable.
  • Touching base with your customers has never been more imperative to determine exactly how these factors motivate interest in your brand during challenging times, and how to convey them as meaningful benefits.


Strategic Toolbox + Insightful Mechanic = Customer Connections

Fortunately, various strategic tools and techniques are available to address targeting and messaging needs to ensure that money is spent wisely…


  • Consumer DialoguersSM: Proactive method to periodically keep pulse on changing needs and discern potential growth opportunities.
  • Loyalty Mindset ExploratoriesSM: Reveals customers’ emotional attachments and rational motivations underlying brand loyalty attitudes – identifies leverage opportunities/how to turn satisfied customers into highly loyal ones.
  • Targeting ProfilersSM: Provides more in-depth understanding of customers and brand differentiation opportunities; generate target user matrix to pinpoint attitudes, psychographics, demos, and key benefit drivers among highest potential user segments.
  • ConsumerographiesSM: Immersive technique to gain comprehensive understanding of consumers onsite and in their own environment via observation and interviews.



  • Depth ChainsSM: Benefit laddering to obtain underlying, deep-seated motivations/end-benefits associated with the brand or its key attributes.
  • VisualagesSM: Using pictures to better understand perceptions or feelings regarding brand imagery or to identify key drivers underlying a perceived ideal product or service.
  • Subconscious ThoughtsSM: Identifying what people say versus think to uncover sensitive or conflicting attitudes toward a brand.
  • BrainmapsSM: Free-association branching tool to explore thoughts and feelings related to a brand or topic to better understand the richer areas associated with it.


This sampling of tools can be used to custom fit a client’s situation to reveal key insights about the brand’s target audience, help focus the creative message and media strategy, and improve ad effectiveness during critical times. History is clear that few brands survive without support during a downturn. And the smartest companies connect with their customers to ensure that their money is well spent. Brands can then come through the downturn with their image firmly intact, and in position to flourish in the good times ahead.

* Sources: Poulos, David. 7 Myths About Marketing in Economic Downturns,; Rhinebarger, Carolyn. How to Gain Market Advantage in an Economic Downturn, Strategic Guru Inc., 2008; Chase, Dave. How Brands Thrived During the Great Depression,; Protecting Your Business During an Economic Downturn, 9/26/08; Semuels, Alana. “Ads are taking the economy into account,” Los Angeles Times, November 10, 2008.


This article is from Strategy Matters, a periodic newsletter from MARAfriedman Brand Strategist, which covers brand strategy issues and associated research toolbox options. This and other newsletters of possible interest can be found at the company’s website:

Company profile

Mara Friedman Brand Strategist

Los Angeles, California, United States of America
(310) 470-8815
About Mara Friedman Brand Strategist:
Strategically-focused qualitative moderator, using insightful tools developed over the years to identify opportunities for brands to stand out.

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