Effectiveness authority Peter Field has adapted tried and tested lessons and new insights on the current COVID-19 situation – here’s what you need to know.

Written in a guest post on LinkedIn’s marketing blog, which you can read here, the co-author of the legendary The Long and the Short of It expands the findings from the IPA databank with a particular focus on 50 case studies that covered the 2008-9 recession (submitted to the IPA in 2010).

If you know Field’s previous work, you’ll be unsurprised to hear there’s a lot of support for maintaining brand-building activity if possible, but the reasoning is solid. “Brand advertising is not about profiting in recession, it is about capitalising on recovery.”

This isn’t normal: Of the first disease-driven recessions of the modern era, Field observes, “the difference between essential and discretionary purchasing looks like it will be much more pronounced than in previous recessions.”

Long-term activity matters: In 2008, brand advertising on traditional media plummeted by around a fifth, while digital advertising held steady. This recession is different, as digital advertising is being switched off quicker than committed TV spend.

Still, Field maintains that “businesses should resist the seductive sales pressure from short-term media to increase activation spend, unless they are one of the fortunate few countercyclical businesses that can meet demand.”

Therefore, brand matters: “Do not abandon your existing brand campaign unless it is clearly unsympathetic to the mood of customers. There may be more value and reassurance in continuity than in change.”

Share of voice matters: SOV’s relationship to market share means that by cutting advertising, the resulting loss in the market share will be extremely expensive and difficult to recover. However, smart marketers who maintain spend will benefit from the less smart marketers who will cut budget – “maintaining SOV is likely to be cheaper than in normal times”, Field notes.

This creates an opportunity: “The implication of falling SOV costs is that recessions can be a low-cost growth opportunity for brands. But in this recession we can also add the opportunity presented by a house-bound population’s growing usage of media such as TV, social and online news channels.

“You may even be able to reduce your budget if others are cutting theirs, but be ready to adapt quickly to developments. You will need to monitor competitive activity regularly.”

Creative strategies: Emotional creative strategies that help to evoke warmth and humanity, if appropriate, are effective in recessions. If these were a part of the brand before the coronavirus, then it is possible to make tactical moves to generate goodwill.

A physical/non-physical divide: Many physical products and services are seeing demand outstrip supply, while for services such as TV and video-conferencing, which are seeing a massive boost, “there is a strong case for these businesses to exploit short-term demand (by means of lead generation activity) to build long-term market share.” If supply is an issue, a longer view is advised.  

If it’s a case of survival, there’s probably no choice: In the case of airlines and catering, cash-conservation might well be necessary. If resources are available, aiming for recovery with longer-term activity that demonstrates generosity and humanity will help to support morale, as well as building saliency for the future.

The B2B picture is complex: As in B2C, any industry with a relationship to discretionary consumer spending will be in a tough place, as will industries that support physical workplaces.

“Because the sales funnel in B2B purchasing is generally longer than in B2C… B2B brand associations created now are likely to bring the greatest sales benefit during the recovery period.”

Sourced from LinkedIn Marketing, WARC