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Four Reasons to Keep Branding During a Recession

The trends are clear: as the economic malaise deepens, GDP growth heads into negative territory and unemployment rises, marketers are slamming the brakes on any program that is offline / branding and shifting whatever dollars they have left in their shrinking budgets to online / direct response.

Last week, MarketingSherpa published two charts showing the shift from offline to online spending, and from brand advertising to direct. Then yesterday, they released this chart, providing detail on the shift in tactics.

The temptation to move in this direction is obvious—but temptations can be dangerous. Shifting resources to social network interaction is smart, and likely would have occurred to some extent even without a recession. Emailing to house lists is another no brainer, though it has to be done with caution; if overdone, unsubscribes will increase and your house list will shrink.

As for the next two tactics on the list, paid search and telemarketing, the only surprise is that there isn't a more pronounced shift toward these activities. They are highly measurable and meet the need for instant gratification.

So, if "everybody's doing it"—shifting resources from branding to direct marketing—why should your company buck the tide? Here are four reasons.

Less clutter means more chance to stand out.

Fewer banner ads on websites, fewer print ads in magazines, and fewer pieces of direct mail in in-boxes mean that your ads and mailers have much less competition for attention.

It makes you look like the big dog.

Buyers figure that if your company is one of the few still willing and able to keep running print and online display ads when everyone else is cutting back, there must be a good reason for it. Success breeds success.

The slowdown gives you leverage.

Think about the people trying to sell online display, print, radio and TV advertising right now—they're desperate. That not only means you can get more attractive pricing, but also that you can get creative in terms of what else goes into the mix: print advertorials, case studies or bylined articles; online editorial coverage, reduced-cost lead gen activities like webinars and white paper syndication; reduced pricing on newsletter sponsorships, etc. What else do you want? Now even moreso than in good times, it doesn't hurt to ask.

Most importantly, branding supports direct response.

Prospective buyers are more willing to open a piece of mail, take a phone call, or click on a search ad if they are familiar with a vendor. By enhancing name recognition and credibility, brand advertising makes your direct marketing programs more effective.

Don't neglect branding. While shifting some of your marketing dollars from offline to online programs certainly makes sense, there are compelling reasons to take advantage of the current climate to make some smart branding moves as well.


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