Marketing Budgets in Bad Times
March 24, 2009
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Marketing in a Slumping Economy

How should marketers adjust or change their spending, strategies, and tactics during a slumping economy? Obviously, financial constraints play an increasingly critical role during these times, but does that simply imply across-the-board cuts?

If we think of marketing activities as analogous to guiding rafts down a river, we can represent bull markets as riding down a fast, majestic river—the waters and the raft flow virtually unimpeded regardless of what stones or other obstructions are deep below. Similarly, every marketing decision we implement and expenditure we approve appear to be justified because sales continue to be robust.

On the other hand, when the economy is slumping, the corresponding analogy is that same river during a drought. Water flow is weak and water levels are low. So the people steering rafts cannot float quickly downstream; moreover, the lower waters expose rocks, branches, and other potentially dangerous obstacles. Similarly, it appears that most marketing decisions and expenditures are fruitless at best and detrimental or disastrous at worst.

So what should be the guiding strategies? As a marketer, picture yourself as the river traffic manager, responsible for getting as many rafts downstream as quickly as possible with as little trouble as possible. When the water is high and running fast, you’re busy enough just watching the rafts float by that you can barely effect much of a difference.

However, when the water is lower and the traffic is slower, you have more time to analyze everything about the operation. You can discern traffic patterns, you can note which obstacles present the biggest danger or impediment to swift progress, etc. With that knowledge, you can develop and execute plans to improve operations so that when the water starts rising the traffic will be noticeably better without you having to step in at the busiest times.

Strategically minded in-house marketers and advertising agencies, such as Domus, Inc., are right now busy using the opportunity provided by the slumping economy to make all of their marketing efforts more effective in anticipation of the bull market soon to come.

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