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It’s All Doom & Boom: The Wisdom of Cranking Up Your Marketing in a Down Economy

If you’re in marketing, you probably already know the drill. A sour economic forecast means budget cuts across the board, typically starting with your department. “Sorry,” they’ll say, “we’ve had to revise our numbers and make some tough cuts. You’ll just have to find a way to do more with less.”

Again, you think.

And it makes sense, right? Because why on earth would you want to be the only one still making money when everyone else is losing it? And if everyone else is cutting their budgets, you probably ought to be cutting yours as well, right? Wisdom of the crowd and all.

(Hopefully you can see where this is going.)

Look, economic forecasts are important and should be factored into your plan. Obviously. Forecasting can help companies reset expectations, plan more prudently, perhaps, and avoid costly missteps associated with runaway spending. But sour economic forecasts can also become self-fulfilling prophecies when we buy into them wholesale without critically thinking about the big picture––including the glorious fact that everyone else (read: your competition) plans on cutting their marketing! That right there is a gift horse you should not look in the mouth, or some modern interpretation of that antiquated and puzzling expression.

FACT: You still gotta spend money to make money. 

Yes, the entire advertising and marketing industry lives and dies by this basic principle because, well, it’s true. Doesn’t matter whether you’re the category leader clinging to market dominance via strobe-like frequency or an upstart challenger on an exposure hunt or lead-gen crusade. You have to spend that bread to bake more of it.

Field of Dreams marketing strategy, last we checked, does not get the VP of marketing promoted. Sorry. If you want people to come, you can’t just build something. You need to make people aware of it. You need to make them desire it. You need to make them feel some kind of connection with it or with you. Yes, you need to spend money on marketing.

“But the economy!”

Make no mistake—arriving at that just-right marketing budget is a complicated dance, but you can’t suddenly decide to sit down just because a slower song comes on. Why not? Because if you do decide to sit this one out, it’s an opportunity for someone else to cut in on your date. Yes, your competition is counting on you to cut your marketing so that—best case—they can cut theirs as well, or—worst case—they can maintain (or crank up!) spending and start burying you. Don’t help your competition bury you by sticking your head in the sand.

CONSIDER: Cutting your budget only makes sense to the people cutting it. 

Let’s work the logic backwards. If you gotta spend money to make money, then not spending money is not making money. And there are a lot of people out there who understand this. Some of the biggest, most established brands in the world don’t go radio silent when there’s a gloomy jobs report, interest rate hike or decline in home values. And neither should you. 

If you’ve been hearing that “sky is falling” speech from on high, here are a few practical suggestions for consideration:

Snap repositioning.

Sure, unemployment remains near historic lows, but inflationary pains and recessionary fears persist, so your customers may be planning cutbacks of their own. An agile marketing partner can help you pivot quickly to capitalize on consumer sentiment. Adopt a value positioning, add a little empathy to your communications, introduce discounts or other incentives and reinforce shared values to shore up loyalty.

Value shopping. 

Turn that doom-and-gloom forecast into a boom by picking up cheaper media. Less demand means more supply, right? There may even be more room to negotiate. As your competition sits it out for a few months, you’ll be gobbling up share-of-voice. If you find the media isn’t getting cheaper, well, that may indicate something else entirely and another reason to keep your name in the game.


If you can’t afford to do everything you want, start with what you can’t afford to cut. Fund those must-have marketing investments first and ask your marketing partner for a recommendation on how to optimize what’s left. You might be surprised what’s possible.

Critically evaluate your internal resources. 

In some cases, it may make sense to outsource select marketing responsibilities to a cost-efficient partner on an as-needed basis versus committing to that full-time hire. In-housing is a smart strategy when you have budget commitments for long-term plans; out-sourcing can be a shrewd stopgap plan to get things done in leaner times.

Put your foot on the gas. 

If my biggest competitor were pulling out of key placements, downsizing their footprint at events, slashing sponsorships or otherwise planning significant cutbacks, I’d see that as a golden opportunity to grab some market share. There’s a case to be made that marketing spend will go further now than it ever will. 

Yes, it’s always easier to play it safe. But fortune favors the bold. So instead of reflexively cutting back, give some thought to the possibility that this might be the perfect time to do a lot more with just a little more. Not less.