The Creative Toolkit for Marketers

The Importance of Marketing During an Economic Downturn

Bryan Johnston

Marketing during an economic downturn


On March 11, 2020, in response to the global pandemic of COVID-19, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped more than 20% lower than its 52-week high. That officially makes it a Bear market. For the first time in 11 years.


While the markets have rebounded since then, to say that the economy has been unpredictable lately would be a gross understatement.


But there’s a silver lining.


There is an opportunity for businesses to grow during an economic downturn and the marketing and sales departments play a huge role in driving future success. It’s all about finding creative solutions to make sure your message is seen and heard.


Luckily, that’s exactly what we do here at VMG Studios. Our team is constantly finding new ways to position our clients’ brands to drive awareness and inspire their target audiences to act.


This article will dive into how to use an economic downturn to pick up market share, increase profit margins, and raise your brand awareness.


Marketing During a Recession (Or What Feels Like One)

Whenever there are substantial drops in the market, the word “recession” begins to crop up in conversation. And when that word starts to get bandied about, businesses get nervous and begin tightening up their purse strings.


As a result, perceived non-critical expenses get the axe.


Advertising and marketing budgets are often high on that list. But I’m here to tell you that a down market is the time when you should boost your marketing spend.


Here’s how:


Provide Value

I know what you’re thinking. Why would you spend money to promote your product or service if the market is tanking and people are spending less money? A down market doesn’t mean people aren’t buying, they’re just spending differently.


They become more interested in value. They want to know if and why your product or service is essential (AKA why it’s worth the cost).


For example, with the rise in people working remotely due to coronavirus concerns and social distancing, this is a prime time for technology companies to outline the services they provide – like video chat platforms such as Microsoft Teams – to support the working-from-home shift.


So, how do you sell and demonstrate your values? Through marketing and advertising. This allows you to get in front of your target audience and increase brand awareness (and hopefully brand loyalty).


“New” platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok that boost reach, impressions, and engagement open the door to cost-effective ways to market your product or service in a more targeted way.


You can also leverage content you have already created and optimize it for these platforms. This is an economical way to communicate the value your business offers.


Sizzle videos are also a great style to communicate the value of your product or services. You can compile footage (b-roll) from videos you’ve already created to communicate key features and benefits or mix footage you already have with relevant stock video or photography.


Bundle that video with a targeted voice-over script, supporting graphics package, and music and you have yourself an inexpensive yet effective marketing piece.


Consumers are also price-checking in a down economy. This puts you in the tricky position of determining whether or not you slash prices. The answer depends on your brand position. If before the recession your company was known for its competitive prices—think Walmart—then cutting prices is consistent with your brand.


However, cutting prices may not be an option for your business, but there are other ways to provide value while giving your customers a deal.


Think about creating package deals or offering temporary discounts of your products or services and encourage customers to buy (through marketing efforts) since they’ll be getting more bang for their buck.


Whatever changes you may make to your business model, tell your customers. You can do so through creative content – a marketing video that you can blast on social media and your website, digital banner ads, an email campaign, the list of options to relay your message goes on and on.


Sell Service

If consumers are buying less, then their purchasing experience becomes more important. Promote your commitment to service. This also falls under providing value. Let the public know that you will take exceptional care of them. Convince them that you are there to help; that you understand that they work hard for their money; that you’re on their side.


See if you can identify other services your business could provide that you might not have thought of before. Take restaurants, for example, which are trying desperately to stay afloat. Many are now offering take-out and delivery options due to COVID-19 – to keep their business running, employees occupied, and raise brand loyalty and awareness.


By promoting your commitment to your customers through creative content, and living up to it, you are creating brand loyalty. And that loyalty is what will help get you through the next run of hard times.


A good rule to remember is this: Advertising will only get a customer through the door once. After that, it’s up to the seller to build trust and longevity of that customer.


Take Advantage of Less Competition

When the market drops, the knee-jerk reaction by most companies is to hunker down. It’s an understandable reflex; the result of millions of years of evolution: Survival mode!


Instead, look at a down market as an opportunity to strategize, plan, and identify different value propositions to keep generating revenue.


Differentiation in marketing is always important. Why should people pick you over the competition? With less competition on the marketing or advertising front, your differentiator will likely be seen by more people – people who may be looking for a change.


While other businesses draw down their ad spend and diminish their profile, the ones still advertising stand out more. Out of sight, out of mind. Absence only makes the heart grow fonder for the one who’s not absent.


Marketing is much easier to do digitally now, especially with social media, so there are still plenty of opportunities to reach your target audience. And if your competitors aren’t advertising, it’s more likely that customers will find you and turn to your product or service instead.


You might also consider implementing content marketing to your strategy. Inbound, or content marketing, is a digital strategy of creating honest, transparent, and educational content for your ideal buyer.


Since you’re an expert in your industry and the product or service your business provides, you can leverage that knowledge to get in front of your target audience through informational content such as online articles and business blogs.


This kind of content positions you as a thought leader in the industry. And don’t worry, you don’t have to be a copywriter or content marketing expert for this to be successful. Companies like ours, VMG Studios, are here to help.




Look to The Future

When a financial crisis hits, most companies focus on their short-term financial health. How can we stay afloat right now? What changes do we need to make immediately? This is natural for any business. It’s hard to look beyond the current quarter, week, or even day.


However, advertising can help turn those short-term solutions into long-term gain.




Well, we’ll bring it back around to providing value. By providing value to your consumers in the short-term and conveying that value through creative messaging and highly targeted multi-media content, you’ll hopefully retain their business and loyalty in the long-term.


Think of marketing as an investment, not an expense. With fewer competitors, you have the opportunity to expand your reach and raise your brand awareness in the public eye. When the market rebounds—and it always rebounds—the public will remember the brands that made an effort to stay top of mind.


The public will especially remember your brand if you helped solve a problem during the down economy, supported the community, or made a positive splash. Don’t underestimate the value of good public relations and take advantage of things you can do to position your company in a positive light.


And you don’t have to do a major messaging blast or launch a huge marketing campaign all at once. Consider a drip marketing strategy, which is a communication strategy of smaller (often automated) messages sent to your target audience over time. When your competitors go radio silent and you continue to do a drip, drip, drip of relevant brand messaging (relevance is key so your audience doesn’t get annoyed by constant touchpoints), you will have a much better chance of being the go-to-choice when consumers feel more comfortable in their spending.


It’s Time to Negotiate

Do you know which businesses are some of the first to be affected by people’s instinct to spend less? Media outlets. TV and radio stations. Newspapers. Websites. They survive on advertising, and when the demand is lower, they are more willing to negotiate rates for ad buys. They have a choice: sell 10 ads at full price or sell 20 ads at a 25% discount. You do the math.


If you are interested in more traditional forms of advertising due to your target demographic, now is the time to negotiate.


However, as previously mentioned, there are many other (and cheaper) avenues to consider when it comes to promoting your content such as social media and email campaigns.


Moving Forward With Your Marketing Efforts in a Down Market

A down market is an opportunity to boost your brand and increase your market share. In fact, several businesses have thrived during a recession. In 2009, for example, Amazon sales grew by 28% thanks to the launch of new Kindle products. Take advantage of the market with fewer competitors by:

  • Providing value
  • Selling service
  • Negotiating
  • Looking to the future

At VMG Studios, we’re all about creative marketing and branding. It’s what we do. And right now, in these uncertain economic times, we can help you get eyes and ears on your message and help you stand out from the crowd. When the market bounces back and consumers are opening their wallets again, make sure they haven’t forgotten about you.


Click the image below to download a free one-sheet outlining 5 alternatives to live-action video during COVID-19

New call-to-action



Tags: Marketing, Advertising, COVID-19, Economic downturn, Recession marketing

Bryan Johnston

Written by Bryan Johnston

Bryan Johnston is the Creative Director at VMG. He loves movies, sports, reading, and writing. In no particular order. His one wish is to see the Seattle Mariners win the World Series in his lifetime. He is not holding his breath.

Lists by Topic

see all