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Three ways to think in tumultuous times

Our Senior Strategist, Adam, identifies three ways to win when it comes to marketing in an economic downturn.


Adam Knott



If I had the funds and the connections, I would hire Dan Brown to write a new bestselling novel...

Where a brand marketer and their fresh-faced assistant join forces to decrypt abstract clues and unravel a shady conspiracy. At the end of the last chapter, the weary marketer, having discovered the final resting place of Thought Leadership, would blow dust from the surface of a gravestone, to unveil the shocking, earth-shattering truth: it’s good to keep advertising during a recession.

Which is my probably-not-SEO-friendly way of saying that, if you head to Google right now, the query “marketing in a recession” offers 56 million results. And none of them say anything new, because the data is clear and pretty unequivocal: if you can afford it, you should maintain – or even increase – your advertising budget during an economic downturn.

I guess sometimes the truth bears repeating, just in case there are lost tribes on a remote Pacific Island that still haven’t heard of Binet and Field. But for the rest of us, what new is there to learn?

Well, quite a bit. But as it turns out, like with most things, the really valuable knowledge is not in what to think, but how to think.

The key detail is that all recessions are different. That doesn’t change the fundamental truth written on the dusty gravestone, but it does mean that because the root causes vary, so do the effects on consumer behaviour. You only have to put the pandemic alongside this most recent downturn to see the truth in that.

So, how should your brand react to tumultuous economic times?

It depends.

But we can go beyond “it depends” as advice. Crucially, we can identify behaviours and principles that will make it easier to win.


During an economic downturn, it pays to be adaptable. In practice, that means being curious about the changes happening in your market and your consumers’ lives.

Nothing sharpens the competitive edge of marketing like turbulence. All sorts of forces – economic, cultural, social, political – make sure bets less certain and once-discarded ideas valid. If you can’t spot – and act upon – these opportunities as they arise, you’ll be at a major disadvantage.


The second crucial trait is a balanced perspective. In the real world, that’s all about enabling your business to resist short-termism and embrace dissenting perspectives healthily.

Because things change quickly, tensions between teams and ideas can emerge rapidly during periods like this. Agencies that give a damn about their clients understand this. But it really is all about relationships at the end of the day. Having sources of advice that you can trust to be honest but also reasonable is crucial.


Lastly – the hardest of the bunch – is to be courageous. Brave is a controversial word for marketers, because we’re not firefighters, and because making attention-grabbing work isn’t daring so much as essential.

But there can be a natural temptation in stormy weather to batten down the hatches, and it’s almost certain that the businesses that win big will be the ones that commit to new ideas, even amid the thunder and lightning. So perhaps it’s more acutely about not being unreasonably scared. Either way, if everyone else starts making sappy Covid mood films, it’s best to take a different tack.

At IMA-HOME, we’re setting ourselves up to deliver on these principles for and with our clients. Adaptability, Balance and Courage might not be quite as pithy as “keep advertising”, but it’s at least as easy as ABC.

Need help navigating your brand in these times? Chat with us at [email protected].


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