When times are tough . . .


WHEN times are tough in business, one mistake that can be made is to cut the marketing department budget as I have probably mentioned in passing in an earlier article.

It is at this time that the fundamentals of marketing have to be taken even more seriously and be stepped up.

Marketers may be tempted by the need to escalate sales in the short-term at whatever cost and therefore rely on fluff and hype to create the illusion of value and to patch holes with paper, but the results can be difficult to undo.

In times of a recession the disposable incomes of consumers will inevitably take a nose dive and when this happens. They are forced to reassess how and what they purchase.

The love affair with bling can come to an abrupt end because consumers now look at more than just bargains. Value from the offering becomes important in these times. The most sought after handbag is no longer the Gucci or the Nine West, but rather something that is real leather, well made and built to last. No prizes for guessing why the handbag I carry has and will always be a Dori bag.
In times of recession people start to buy with their heads instead of their hearts.

You will all remember how the Zimbabwean recession has left consumers trust shattered and while this shattered trust was initially limited to the financial sector which obviously suffered the greatest breach of trust this has spilled over to other areas.

Consumers have started to ask tough questions about the accountability of corporate organisations, the government and brands.
Appalled at the blatant greed obvious in some organisations today consumers are starting to demand transparency, honesty, authenticity and sustainability. Such changes in consumer demands mean marketing has to go back to basics and relearn important fundamentals. These include the following:

  • Sell real value
    A great marketing message is no longer enough to paper over the holes in a poor product offering. Marketers have to ensure that they deliver on the brand promise. Remember that a pig wearing lipstick is still a pig. The only difference now is that the consumers can see right through it.
  • Add real value
    This is not about offering “two for one” deals or bargain basement prices. It is about giving people products and services that are relevant and meet their needs.
    What marketers need to understand is that they need to meet the customers’ needs, not the needs that they impose on them which leads me to the next point . . .
  • Know your market
    Get to know the people to whom you are selling. This might sound obvious, but marketers who assume they understand everything there is to know about their target market are dead wrong! A lot has changed in the past one week, one month and one year.
    Marketers need to get back to the basics of real market research. A business’ operating times for example need to suit the consumer. I see retail operators are changing their trading times and opening late to cater for their consumers.
  • Understand your space
    Understand the space you operate in on a macro and a micro level. The playing field has changed from a political, social, economic and commercial point of view. Understand what these changes are and which ones are relevant to you and how they affect your brand.
  • Define your goals
    Now more than ever, marketers need to have a very clear vision of what their brand sells and what direction they would like it to grow in. There is much to be said for sticking to your knitting, but while you do so make sure you have an eye on how your brand can grow into new territory.
  • Start measuring
    Metrics have to be presented to show what has been achieved. Measurement has to be meaningful. It is no longer enough to talk about page statistics. Marketers need to go a level deeper and conduct research into brand awareness, interaction, purchase drivers, purchase intention, brand loyalty and willingness to refer. Hard statistics will always be necessary but they need to be combined with good qualitative data.

I am, however, of the opinion that this recession too will pass but the knowledge the consumers obtained during the recession will continue to influence how they respond to brands in the future. Till next week keep reading the red publication and remain Brand Savvy.