Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Marketers shouldn’t fear recession — it’s a time to build for the future

By Lucy Hinton, SVP Client Success EMEA at Flashtalking by Mediaocean

With inflation on the up and the rising cost of living pushing consumer confidence to an all-time low, the signs are there that a recession is coming. However, the landscape looks very different to what you might expect in the face of a financial crisis. Unemployment is down, falling to its lowest in 50 years in May 2022. The housing market is buoyant, with prices expected to end the year around 7% higher than in 2021. Compared to the financial downturn of 2009, things look very different indeed.

However, what we must remember is that no potential economic downturn is the same and there’s no doubt consumers are feeling the squeeze. The most obvious reaction for marketers at this stage is to cut spend, freeze hiring and postpone projects. However, while no economic downturn is the same, there are lessons that can be taken from previous recessions. And we know from hard times before, cutting spend just doesn’t work.

Instead, it’s the brands that have the bravery and foresight to maintain ad spend, when their competitors are not, that come out on top. So, what should marketers be doing right now that can help futureproof plans and campaigns for their brands?

Finding a way forward through technology and data

We ultimately need to start a new conversation about how to move forward in trickier times. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, that conversation starts with technology. By taking context of the landscape with a new technological and data-centric focus, it means marketers can seize this as a real opportunity to develop new, more agile, more resilient ways of working that will change the way marketing budget is spent.

The importance of leveraging data for business in 2022 is no revelation, but it can’t be downplayed when it comes the insights that can be gained alongside a thorough understanding of the current effectiveness of media spend. It allows marketers to understand how to target consumers more precisely and reactively.

What this creates an opportunity to make changes to creative and campaigns rather than having to reduce budget. Whether that’s changing a marketing message, reconsidering the audience for a product or advert, or looking at where and how a product is being marketed, these insights allow marketers to make more confident decisions by removing any sway of instinct and sentiment, and instead being guided by fact. In addition, it also allows marketers to create an omnichannel strategy which has the flexibility to allocate more resources to channels proving most influential while still not over allocating to what’s trending at the expense of proven media formats and creative.

The importance of investment in tech

However, getting to the point where this data is useful and usable takes time. It needs careful filtering, curating and analysing. This is where leveraging the power of technology platforms is vital. And marketers should look at independent omnichannel platforms that use AI and machine learning as it will allow them to take control of marketing investments and optimise business outcomes quickly and efficiently.

While it may sound counter intuitive to talk about investing in a downturn, smart technology-based investments today will pay financial dividends. And it is not just a business benefit — there is a people win here too. By providing the tools to support employees, companies can enable rapid upskilling, remove repetitive tasks and increase efficiency, for a better employee experience.

Building the dynamic between a CFO and CMO

Data and insights are king then, but actually how marketers run these initiatives internally is almost as important to its success. The key here is ensuring the C-suite is strategically aligned and working closely together. And there is one relationship that is more important than most for marketers in any business.

CFOs and CMOs must have a thorough understanding of one another’s roles to truly reap the rewards and finding a shared language to discuss them is key. Only through this understanding can shared goals be made and met — CMOs must be ready to paint a picture of how their marketing goals translate into financial return, and CFOs need to move past simple figures, to understanding what it is that makes a business money.

By doing this, CMOs and CFOs will gain an awareness and empathy for the challenges and concerns that face the other, and with trust and transparency they can work together to accelerate and create campaigns will not only connect with their customers but drive successful awareness and impact the bottom line. 

When marketers can tap into the right tools, data and investment, as well as drive the formidable partnership between their CMO and CFO, they will be able to proactively guide their teams through potential tougher times. The time is now to reassess, look closer, be agile and build for the future.