Using Creativity and Street Smarts to Survive a Recession.


Everyone’s hurting right now and while you’re thinking you need to cut back on sales training, marketing and R&D, your biggest, baddest competitors have likely already done just that. Which means you have a unique opportunity to enter a new market or expand your existing share while the big boys aren’t looking. This is exactly what companies like Clif Bar, Method Products, Inc. and The Wine Group are doing.

Be Frugal In Your Design Decisions.

A great example of frugal design innovation is the development of Recession Wines by The Wine Group last year. They took advantage of recessionary wine purchasing trends (you know, the one where consumers drink more and cheaper wine at home than out and about with their friends) and created a low-price competitor to Two-Buck Chuck by saving money via packaging design. Using cheaper synthetic corks and a lighter bottle saved enough money per unit to allow offering a price under $5. This is a great example of using design frugality to achieve the lower price without skimping on the quality of the actual product.

And thanks to the up front legwork achieved by Two-Buck Chuck, consumers know that cheap wine doesn’t have to taste like floor cleaner. So new brands like Recession Wines don’t have to spend money changing consumer attitudes, they can instead focus on developing a great product and getting it to market.

Be Creative And Limber.

Limber up and be ready to try new things or take on the category gorillas like Method Products, Inc. did during the dotcom bust.

In 2001, after the massive dotcom failures, investors were afraid and ready for anything that wasn’t founded on questionable technologies. Using a friendlier logo, a more humanist approach overall, better design and easier, faster to read text allowed Method to take on the likes of P&G and SC Johnson. Method’s more casual and honest approach also tied directly into the green product trends consumers were starting to buy. These creative approaches, combined with truly green products, allowed Method to a get there faster and connect more quickly and firmly with consumers. Most importantly, it allowed them to compete more affordably during a recession when the 800-pound gorillas were asleep.

Seek Opportunities To Steal.

Most of your competitors will be scaling back their marketing programs to cut costs. They’ll even be laying off the people that watch out for companies like yours. This is your chance to steal more of the spotlight, and it will cost less to do so during a recession. Ad rates can be more favorably negotiated. Ditto with vendor costs. And don’t forget, any customers you snag during this difficult time will still be your friends when the market recovers.

This is exactly what happened when Clif Bars entered the market in 1992 and challenged Powerbar, the industry front-runner. Powerbar owned the market; there was no serious competitor. But with a recession in play, the field leveled and Clif Bar stole the ball.

Taking more care to research the market and spending more time in R&D allowed Clif Bar to create a much better tasting product and enter through bike shops rather than grocery outlets. Couple this with vendors so desperate for a sale they’d risk doing business with a start-up, and Clif Bar was in business.

Don’t Wait For An Invitation.

Experts think the recession is starting to wane, which means you don’t have much time left. So stop wasting paper and pixels on fluff, and focus on more human-to-human, conversational tones. Adjust both your visual and verbal messages to your customers. Their needs have shifted and so too should your messages. Ensure you’re meeting consumers’ design needs whether it’s larger type for boomers or less costly production materials for the newly unemployed.

Think beyond traditional media by considering social media tools to more directly connect to your target market. During a recession, many consumers are at home, in front of their computers, communicating through social networking tools. You should be there, too.

And certainly don’t skimp on communicating superior quality during a recession. Especially with high-ticket items that consumers will be married to for years to come. This is a time when they’re going to be especially critical of cheaper durable goods that could be a waste of their hard-earned dollars.

And above all, innovate as if your life depended on it, because in a recession, your company’s life does. Now go out there and get scrappy, dang it!

By Julia Moran Martz

2009’s Top Ten Marketing Resolutions

  1. 10resolutions-4blog1Get out more—develop a social media plan. It’s relatively inexpensive and moves you into a fast developing marketing arena. To get up to speed, check out “Integrating Social Media”.
  2. Lose weight fast—clean your marketing database. If there were ever an incentive to improve accuracy and reduce excess pounds in your database, this is the year. And don’t forget about your email database, which can really pack on the pounds quickly.
  3. Reduce stress—get your brand’s assets organized. A study conducted a few years ago asserted that marketers spent approximately 30% of their time finding “stuff” — images, copy, documents, etc. There’s really no excuse with the wide range of asset management tools available.
  4. Reunite with old friends—spend more time with clients. We all know that the best source of new business is from existing customers, yet most companies continue to devote the largest share of marketing dollars to prospecting. This is the year to break bad habits.
  5. Quit smoking—smoke your competition instead. Nothing will get you further than developing true competitive differentiation. Commit to breaking free from “me too” products, services and marketing campaigns.
  6. Improve your finances—increase your marketing ROI. Justify your marketing expenditures with a measurable return on investment. Prove to your company’s executive management team that your marketing campaigns more than pay their own way.
  7. Help the environment—green your marketing program. Here’s the good news: You’ll likely save money in the process. Be sure to consider the entire marketing supply chain and make key vendors part of your environmental team.
  8. Serve others—develop a unique and timely product/service. There is opportunity in any market. Now is the time to show your ingenuity with a product or service that’s right for the times. Not launching anything new? Focus on showing how your products/services are clearly the best investment over the longer haul.
  9. Try something new—launch an innovative campaign. You need to break through the clutter more than ever, especially if you’re products/services fall into the discretionary spending category. Anyone can market through the good times when money is flowing, but next year presents an opportunity for you to separate yourself from the ordinary marketing folks.
  10. Save money—allocate your marketing budget more strategically. This approach is the opposite of being penny wise and pound foolish, which often happens during lean economic times. Spend more money where you can get the greatest return on your investment (like more dollars for a better booth space or page position) and cut the marginal stuff, even if it’s a personal favorite.

Looking for a Support Group?

Sticking to your marketing resolutions can be a tough, lonely road. MondoVox® Creative Group can provide all the strategic, tactical, creative and moral support you need to turn over a new marketing leaf. For more information, email Julia Moran Martz. Then relax, turn off the digital devices and enjoy a wonderful holiday season.

— by Larry Bauer