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Your Marketing Stimulus Package: Invest Now in Building Brand

by Kevin Randall  |  
March 10, 2009

Every day we are bombarded with news about the economy—bank busts, bailouts and buyouts, rising jobless claims, more home foreclosures, declining consumer confidence, the unfolding "stimulus package," a national budget crisis...

In the marketing world, we hear a similar drumbeat about the fallout: dismal corporate earnings, company layoffs, marketing budget cuts, advertising gone dark, clients and agencies and people coming and going, a brand budget crisis—there is a sense of turbulence, malaise, and timidity...

We see a diminishing commitment to long-term brand building. The mission of the moment is driven by the CFO, not the CMO (if he or she is still in place), and calls for cost-cutting and short-term revenue-generating activities only.

Lead generation is "in." Immediate demand stimulus and call to action are the rage (the term "stimulus" has a sort of currency). Brand strategy and market research are "out" of fashion perhaps.

The decline, then, of brands and branding?

Not so fast.

There is a weighty and consistent body of historical data showing that marketers do harm, in the short-run and long-run, to their businesses and brands by kneejerk budget-slashing and by running scared.

A study of B2B marketing over six recessions in the 20th century found that not only did sales and profits decline for brands that cut brand-oriented advertising during the recession but also performance continued to lag upon the subsequent recovery. (The Buchen Agency)

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Kevin Randall is director of brand strategy and research at Movéo Integrated Branding (, a brand consulting and marketing communications firm based in Oakbrook Terrace, IL. Kevin can be reached at and 630.570.4813.

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  • by Kevin Horne Tue Mar 10, 2009 via web

    I like it all, altho i thought the first P was a bit misleading. I'd change it to "Push." While I agree the time could be ripe to get out there and talk, it in no way guarantees profit.

    Well done.

  • by Joshua McNary Tue Mar 10, 2009 via web

    Good overview of opportunities to consider while everyone else is talking about the negative. Convincing others of the validity of such arguments could be challenging, but intuitively many seem wise. However, I agree with Kevin, they don't guarantee profit. This said, the down market does provide excellent branding potential...

  • by Warren Schirtzinger Tue Mar 10, 2009 via web

    You've got to be kidding!

    Your 2nd bullet near the end of this article includes data from 1975 (!?!) That's 34 years ago! And the companies mentioned (Ford and GM) are bankrupt and nearly out of business. Such great examples!

    Plus, you're suggesting we use that data as an example to follow? Don't you think the world has changed just a bit in the last 34 years?

    HAHAHAHAH. I sure hope your clients know how to think for themselves

  • by Kevin Randall Tue Mar 10, 2009 via web

    Respectfully Warren,

    The more data we can look at (6 recessions across many eras, changes, brands and industries) the more powerful it is in making a case.

    Ford and GM are basket cases in 2009 because they did not get and deliver on PERFORMANCE and "value" to the market sufficiently to be profitable.

    I would not dwell on the one GM bullet at the very end. And that data probably says more about branding, marketing and volume of communications in general than it does about about GM's specific approach.

    But you are right. GM in 1975 has nothing to do with GM in 2009. That is exactly the point. GM lost its way a long time ago.

    By the way, IBM and P&G show great financial results TODAY, in Q1 2009...Southwest Airlines continues to thrive TODAY...

    I assume you do not work at IBM, P&G or Southwest.



  • by SHRIKANT PARIKH Wed Mar 11, 2009 via web


  • by Brandon Bester Thu Mar 12, 2009 via web

    Interesting article Kevin. I tend to agree, and during tough times the marketing budget is usually the first area that gets cut. Your points actually make me think back to The Seven Habits where Covey talks about maintaining a balance between Production and Production Capacity. In this case it would be maintaining a balance between a sustainable marketing budget and the correct level of marketing (advertising, etc) as an investment in future capacity.

  • by Sameer Bhaduri Sat Mar 14, 2009 via web

    Good perspective Kevin.
    I agree to your remark on 'GM in 1975 has nothing to do with GM in 2009' and the objective here is about 'Corporate Branding Strategy' during economic slowdowns...Here in India, GM and FORD are still looked at as iconic brands but they probably got lost on their way in Product Innovation and agility...

  • by MistrBlistr Fri Mar 20, 2009 via web

    Why are you SHOUTING, Shrikant?

    Caps off ...

  • by Shrikant Parikh Sat Mar 21, 2009 via web

    thanks MistrBlistr will take care next time(re: CAPS..). However would appreciate your comments on the article...

  • by Imelda Alejandrino Sun Apr 5, 2009 via web

    I couldn't agree more on minding the "brand" store, when you're busy foraging for sales. I'd be interested in getting comments on concept. Need reality check.

  • by Celia White Tue Apr 14, 2009 via web

    It's always good to read an article on branding that upholds traditional and non-traditional strategies. Well done!

  • by The Dream Foundry Wed Jul 15, 2009 via web

    I am visiting this article rather late, but I find it interesting that there are marketing professionals, presumably self-styled, that can't recognize the inherent value in it. I usually find alliteration to be a cheap sleight of hand for both the writer and the reader, but the points made here are well worth considering.

    Consumer dynamics are always changing, but that's not what this is about. In a recession you move back to the basics, to the lowest common denominators that influence the laws of choice, and with regard to marketing these points all strike true. As for currency, it's hardly an issue - Motorola's profit margins have been dropping for years but manufacturers still report success using their six-sigma practices, and modern militaries continue to reference the 2,500 year old treatise, The Art of War.

    Times may change, principles do not.

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