How to survive a crisis and emerge stronger, without increasing spend.


During more challenging times, such as these, it is more important than ever to live by your values.

by Lanara Mitchell – 6th April 2020

There are countless examples of brands that have increased marketing investment during a recession and have emerged stronger, with a bigger share of the market as a result. There are equally numerous studies looking at the impact of the 2008 financial crisis which highlight that spending more on marketing during a national or global crisis is sound advice. 

The evidence to support this strategy concerns the relationship between share of voice (SOV) and share of market (SOM). It concludes that if your share of voice is significantly greater than your current share of market, you are likely to grow in the following period. So, if your competitors are cutting back, reducing their own visibility, you have an opportunity to fill the void and be seen by a larger proportion of your target audience.  

However, in times like these, knowing that something is the right thing to do and being able to do it are often two different things. Requesting a notable increase in your marketing budget is unlikely to get the answer you hope for. That is understandable. Right now brands are naturally worried about the bottom line and are looking at every area of spend to see where efficiencies can be made. With that in mind, if you’re working within existing budgets, or even with reduced spend available, what tactics can you employ and where should you focus your attention to maximise your success and emerge from Covid-19 stronger?

The first thing to remember is not to panic.  Understand who you are as a brand, what you stand for and the problem you help to solve for your customers. Fixate on your strengths, what has worked previously, and how you can differentiate your brand from your competition. 

Embody your brand values

During more challenging times, such as these, it is more important than ever to live by your values and communicate with sincerity and authenticity. Developing content that highlights your purpose, your role in the community or your brand’s personality can help to build trust and a stronger emotional connection with your audience. Now is the time to show a more human side to your communications, be open and honest and most of all kind. 

There is a real economic benefit to this advice. Brands perceived positively build stronger connections with their audience and can often demand higher prices for products and services. 

Communication starts at home

With so much going on, important decisions are having to be made rapidly. Communicating these updates with your internal teams, and ideally with an opportunity for them to respond, is critical. Keeping your teams engaged and motivated and reminding them that they are essential to the business will make a real difference to how they respond to difficult news and the messages they share in their own networks. 

In times like these, people gravitate to social media for the latest news and updates, with major announcements often appearing on Twitter or Facebook before a public statement has even been issued. It is, therefore, vital that your workforce is kept up-to-speed and isn’t blindsided by difficult news or awkward questions. You need everyone in your organisation to show a united front and that is only possible if everyone is on the same page. 

Know your audience

It is more critical than ever to truly understand what makes your audience tick. You need to have insight into what engages them, what motivates them, and what they need. Once you have this intelligence, use it to create content and offers that resonates with your audience at an emotional and practical level. Find relevant topics to explore in more detail, try new content types or ways to interact on an individual level but never forget where your value lies to them – the requirement you meet or challenge you address. 

Be flexible with format

With so many of us confined to home, the way we consume information has already changed. A recent poll showed that two-thirds of respondents expect their social media and video consumption to increase during the lockdown so respond to this shift by creating content in the format and on the channels your audience is engaging with right now. 

Prepare for your own crisis

Crisis management is more relevant than ever right now so make sure your emergency plans are up to date. Do you have a crisis communications handbook in place? Are your messaging and document templates up to date? Are your teams media trained and ready to respond quickly? If the answer isn’t a resounding yes to each of these questions, you need to consider how you would respond if something were to happen. Reputational damage takes minutes to happen but can take years to recover from, if at all. 

Be aware of what others are going through

Don’t be tone-deaf is something I shouldn’t have to say but the news already is littered with companies that have misjudged public opinion and issued insensitive communications only to scramble to manage the fallout the next day. 

Have empathy with the plight of the world and pass any communication through a filter that asks ‘is this appropriate’ or ‘could this be poorly perceived’. This is especially challenging for luxury brands or those without a function deemed essential to society so extra care should be taken and the channels you use considered even more carefully. 

Keep it unique

We have covered it before in these tips but the most important rule of making a difference with your communications is to ensure whatever you create, that it is always unique and engaging. If you want to move the needle, your content must be reflective of your audience and what they need and want. Alternatively, it can reveal an interesting perspective, solve an issue or highlight ways in which your business has made a difference. 

Relevant, timely and high-quality content rises to the top so think carefully and be driven by who you are as an organisation and who are looking to reach, and you will see the benefits. 

Overall, as marketeers, it is our responsibility to ensure we maximise the value and return of every pound we spend by building and maintaining strong relationships with our audience. If we work smart and continue to make a difference during this difficult period, we can see the arrival of better times knowing we are prepared and ready to respond.