All About Branding

Steer your brand through the difficult economy

Charlotte Business Journal – by Matthew Fenton

It’s getting ugly out there.

Recent economic events have not painted a rosy picture for anyone
trying to grow a business. Credit has tightened. Consumer confidence is
down. Bad news has rippled through every segment of the economy, and
what happens next is anyone’s guess.

Call me crazy, but I believe these down cycles are actually
net-positive. Why? They teach us to do more with less and to evaluate
every dollar we invest. These are lessons that will serve our brands
for years to come.

Out of necessity, it’s a great time to adopt a fresh mindset. Take
this tough market as an opportunity to consider avenues and approaches
that might not have been on your radar even a year ago.

Here are some tips for steering your brand through a tough economy:

Don’t go dark. A recent Association of National
Advertisers survey found that 53% of marketers expect to cut their ad
budgets in the next six months. As a means of guarding short-term
profitability, many companies already have zeroed out their marketing

The data is clear, however, that companies that spend through a
downturn tend to emerge stronger once things inevitably pick back up.
If your competitors go dark, this is a prime opportunity to gain a
bigger share of the market. Hammer home your strengths and benefits
while your rivals are silent.

Establish ROI. Quick: Which of your marketing
activities provide the strongest returns? If you don’t know, your
management doesn’t know, and it will come looking for such seemingly
“soft” money soon (if it hasn’t already).

Look at each element of your marketing mix to determine what’s
driving the business. Then apply that knowledge to future decisions.
And share that information with the powers that be. That should be a

Begin with the end in mind. If you’re not managing
your brand toward a clear position, a tough market will quickly expose
that shortcoming. Positioning forces you to define your target,
benefits, differences, character and brand equity. All of these help
you make better brand investment decisions.

Get focused and get creative. Once you’ve defined
what you stand for, concentrate your resources on that core idea,
especially if your budget has been trimmed. But “more focused” doesn’t
mean “less creative.” Brainstorm ideas. Work with a small team in a
“money is no object” scenario. Ask questions such as: Which ideas can
be modified to deliver 80% of the value at 20% of the cost? Which can
be implemented quickly and at minimal cost but with strong expected

Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. If you’ve been
slow to adopt emerging media, for example, it might be time to remedy
that situation. And even old standbys such as speaking engagements can
deliver great ROI.

Fight the urge to drop prices. Price reduction
means margin reduction. And it might even undermine brand loyalty,
because you’ve implied that you overcharged in the past. Trade deals
simply move your inventory to another place of business. They’re only a
short-term fix.

Matthew Fenton is founder and president of Three Deuce Branding of Cincinnati. Contact him at

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Walking the Talk

Jim Mitchem

Writer. Father to daughters. Husband. Ad man. Raised by wolves. @jmitchem on twitter. First novel, Minor King, out now.