The global opinion is that the world’s economies are slowing down into recession. While there is no doubt there is a sense of gloom-and-doom around this kind of news, seasoned marketers know that Bear markets are the perfect time to invest in brand and capitalise on competitors retreating into their shells.

 History indicates that many organisations will cut back. In its 2013 Global Media Report, McKinsey showed that it wasn’t until 2011 that ad spend returned to ‘normal’ following the 2007 recession. The pattern was similar back in 1974-75 and then again in ’81 with ad spend in the doldrums until a few years after.

For those brands that steel themselves and keep their advertising on-going, there have always been big wins to be had.

Companies which did not cut marketing expenditure experienced higher sales and net income during those two years and the two years following than companies which cut in either or both recession years.

– ABP/Meldrum & Fewsmith  “How Advertising in Recession Periods Affects Sales” American Business Press, Inc., 1979


Similarly, McGraw Hill Research (Laboratory of Advertising Performance Report 5262 New York: McGraw-Hill, 1986) examined 600 organisations from ’80 to ’85 and demonstrated evidence that those brands that maintained or increased their ad spend during the 1981 downturn experienced sales lifts of greater than 250% higher than competitors who backed off, by 1985.

But it’s not only about getting ahead… companies that turn their ad spend off don’t just tread water, they lose ground. After the 2007 recession, Millward Brown (“Marketing During Recession: Survival Tactics”, May 2008) found that almost two thirds of the brands that switched off advertising spend suffered brand damage of beyond 25% in the years that followed.

Positive emotions in branding

This time, arguably, things are more serious. The pandemic has impacted consumer confidence in every corner of the world. Everyone is hurting. So we go into a recession with heavy emotional baggage. Any good marketer knows that customer’s emotions are key to the success of brands.

In fMRI testing researchers found that familiar brand names trigger strong emotional responses people,  activating parts of the brain associated with positive emotions. Conversely, weaker brands triggered parts of the brain involving working memory and negative emotional processing.

Nostalgic marketing

Right now, the world needs strong branding. It’s therapeutic. Studies reveal that nostalgia combats feelings of loneliness in humans, helping to keep us emotionally connected – even in times of despair.

As a consequence, marketing is likely to play a more critical role than it has in previous recessions. In the past, it was about information. Now it’s about brand identity building and the relationships built with customers … helping them feel safe in an uncertain world.

The lesson is clear. Switch advertising off and your brand takes a hit. Be brave and keep it on and you come out with greater market share and bigger sales. As Harvard Business Review’s Nariman Dhalla so eloquently put it 40 years ago

Advertising is an anti-recession tool… the company courageous enough to stay in the fight when everyone else is playing safe can bring about a dramatic change in market position.

 Sesimi can help you keep your advertising on by driving the costs of ad production down to a fraction of what it currently costs you. That way, you can reinvest in media and creative and pocket some of those savings too. It’s a win, win and you come out of this economic downturn ahead of the game.