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Branding strategies for economic recession

Cost effective branding strategies for an economic recession. It’s official—as of December 2007 the country has slipped into a recession, and along with it another melancholy mood has descended upon business and consumers. “Belt-tightening” and “budgeting” have been a constant discussion among the media and households as people try to figure out what to do about plunging stock prices, decreased home values, and the prospects of mass-layoffs. The real problem, I would argue, is that the more we hear and talk about a bad economy, the more frightened of it consumers become and the less they will spend on the goods and services that they normally would buy, thus perpetuating the downturn.   For businesses that are impacted by consumer and business spending (or lack thereof during periods of a recession); or that depend on the free flow of credit, the first instinct they have is to conserve cash by stopping the spending across the board—on hiring, on equipment, on required services or maintenance, and especially on building their brand (through marketing). This is not to say that watching spending within an organization is a bad thing…often tough economic times allow for businesses to re-evaluate their business model and innovate new ways of reducing costs, while providing greater value for their customers.   Often times, however, the marketing budget is the first to be cut. This can be counter-productive, as it creates a Catch-22 for increasing revenues for a business. Without marketing to create awareness of your brand or promote your products or services, how will consumers know what you offer? Or, if you are not constantly reinforcing your brand’s position with the target audience, it will be easy for the competition to leap-frog you within the marketplace. Companies that continue to market, even during downturns, will be the first to recover once economic conditions improve—doing the opposite will only lead to a decrease in revenue and sales for your organization in the long term.   Organizations should not stop spending money on marketing during a recession, but instead find cost-effective ways to continue to enhance their brand. One of the most effective (and least expensive) methods is to continue establishing an online presence for the organization, and its products or services. In a previous Re:marks article, we discussed the importance of a web site, so we won’t address that here—the problem is that once a new site has launched, there is very little effort to keep it updated and current, and consequently, visitors stop coming because there is no compelling reason to do so.   Without visitors or new content being constantly added (at least once per quarter), a web site will fall into obscurity in the minds of consumers and slip in the search engine rankings. There has been much written about the importance of search engine optimization (SEO), but very little in terms of explanation. To put it simply, SEO involves the use of key words (or words that customers might type into a search engine to find information about your product or service) placed strategically within your site; from the homepage description of the organization to the naming of images and pages, SEO is a simple and inexpensive way to increase the likelihood that your site will be found. The more good key words used within a site, the higher it will appear in Google and other search engine rankings.   Additional Internet marketing strategies can be employed to ensure that traffic will flow freely to your web site. These include: sending out monthly eNewsletters with content that will be relevant to customers (and links them to your web site for more information); promoting events or giveaways through animated “videos” that contain flash animation, music and the ability to forward to a friend (and collect those email addresses into a database of additional prospects); and “pay-for-click” advertising using strategically selected keywords (to increase the chances of customers finding your web site at the top of a search page).   All of the Internet marketing tactics mentioned above are cost-effective, efficient at increasing awareness of a brand, and help ensure increasing revenue even during tough financial times. For more information on how to realize the full potential of your online marketing, call the branding professionals at Indicia Design.   —Ryan Hembree, principal/brand strategy