"The economic downturn spells bad news to most marketers," says Jack Trout in a post at the Branding blog, "but a slump also presents an opportunity to build brands." He takes a back-to-basics approach to his brand-building, and recommends a few down-home strategies that might help turn your lemons into lemonade this summer. Among them:

Differentiate your brand from the competition. Figure out what makes your company unique and play to those strengths. "You cannot be everything to everybody unless you are a Walmart," says Trout, who allows that even the price-slashing retailer ran into trouble when competing with Target in up-market areas. In other words, your customers want to know how you're different—not how you're the same. Show them what sets you apart.

Adjust your message to suit the times. The Walmart stores were already well-positioned for families who wanted to curtail spending. The company's current advertising, though, makes the advantages explicit: one television spot, for instance, demonstrates how a family of four can save $800 a year if they breakfast at home a few times a week—with groceries purchased at a Walmart store—rather than going through the drive-thru on their way to work or school.

For Trout, the best way to battle the recession is with basic common sense. "What marketing folks need to look for is that simple, obvious strategy, and not get bogged down in … complexities," he concludes.

The Po!nt: June's a great time to make lemonade. Focus on the familiar and comfortable aspects of your brand: it might help reassure your customers this summer.

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