Monday, November 24, 2008

Building brand strength in a stormy climate

Posted by Janelle Rees

It’s the build-up in the Territory and while the air conditioning market might be booming, other sectors aren’t weathering the changing economic climate quite so well.

During an economic downturn one of the first budgets to get cut is often marketing and communications.

As communications professionals we play an important role in demonstrating to senior management the advantages of maintaining the communications spend during stormy financial times.

It’s important to convince management that in many cases an economic downturn can be an opportunity to build brand strength. While your competitors are cutting back, you can be investing in your brand positioning and building long-term shareholder value. When the economy picks up (as it inevitably will), you will be in a strong position to capitalise while your competitors are busy playing catch-up.

Additionally, one of the many factors influencing the weakening economy is consumer confidence. As AMI Chairman Roger James points out, consumer confidence is in many cases as much about perception as reality – and that’s where there is an opportunity for marketing and communications professionals to rise to the challenge and influence public perception.

So how do we effectively communicate that we can’t afford to stop communicating?

Research: Know what your competitors are doing, and how they are doing it. Know your target audience. How have they been affected to date by the economic downturn? Have a general understanding of your organisation’s financial position. Can they feasibly afford to maintain the marketing spend?

Evaluate: Senior management is responsible to shareholders, and shareholders are often most interested in the bottom line. You need to be able to demonstrate how effective your communications activities are to maintaining and growing the profitability of the organisation.

Diversify your communications activities: Are there more effective ways you can reach your target audience? Are there cheaper ways you can reach your target audience? Do you already make the most of cost-effective communications in areas such as public relations and social media? Is there an opportunity to borrow a small amount from your TV spend to pilot a social media campaign or extend your public relations activities? Or do you have the internal skills to pilot a social media campaign for next to nothing?

As communications professionals we need to be able to demonstrate our ability to adapt to changing market conditions while still playing a role that demonstrably benefits our organisation’s reputation and bottom line.

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