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Letting Go of your Marketing During a Recession is a Really BAD Idea

When a recession is looming, we all feel the pressure to change our spending habits and make wiser decisions about where our money goes. We all do our best to cut back on our spending and only buy what is absolutely necessary. It can be quite challenging to survive a recession without making a few of these changes, especially for businesses, even the large ones. When businesses are trying to determine which areas to cut, Marketing is unfortunately, a common one. A lot of businesses consider marketing to be ‘fluff’ and think that they will be fine to stop or pause this expense during a recession. However, stopping marketing efforts typically results in more harm because they do not realize how much of an impact it actually has on an overall business. The best course of action is to implement recession-proof marketing strategies to better suit the economic climate. Establishing your business as a company that honours consumer’s changes in spending-habits will help build brand loyalty that will last beyond a recession.

We’re looking out for your business’ best interest and have put together a list of reasons why letting go of your marketing during a recession is a really bad idea, check them out below.

Lose momentum and audience

It takes a lot of force to get something moving, but, once you get it moving, it tends to keep moving with less and less force. To apply this lesson to marketing, think of force as exposure.
One of the great ways to build momentum is through lots of exposure. And, for the small business, without a large budget, exposure is delivered by coming at your market from many angles. You can’t rely on one form of advertising or communication to get the job done. You need to deliver a core message through as many platforms as you possibly can. You must have a referral promotion, an advertising promotion, a public relations promotion, a strategic partner promotion, an email promotion, a speaking promotion, a writing promotion, a newsletter promotion . . . you get the point. 

People often ask, which should I use: postal mail, voice mail or email? The answer is all of the above. People process information in many different ways, you must be able to deliver your message in so many different ways that it is impossible to miss it.
There is no one perfect marketing tactic. It’s a combination of many tactics that eventually gets the giant ball rolling in your favour.
How will you know you’ve pulled off momentum? When you walk into a prospect’s office to make a sales presentation and they are already sold. Marketing momentum does away with the need to sell!

Marketing is typically a slow burn. For some businesses, it can take time before marketing efforts start paying off, but the key is to remain consistent. Marketing does not work if you’re not consistently working at it, if you take a break or decide to cut marketing out of the budget completely, you will surely lose all momentum that you were working to build up. A good audience is also not built overnight, it takes a lot of work to build connections and trust with people. Cutting off contact with your audience during a time when they want to be understood and heard, jeopardizes brand loyalty and image. Growth is still possible during a recession; businesses should still strive to build momentum and expand their audience despite the status of the economic environment. Scaling back on, or scrapping marketing efforts will only hinder your performance in the long run. 

lose seo progress

Every type of business has their own specific KPI’s (key performance indicators) to measure the successes and failures against their goals. They clearly illustrate whether or not a business is reaching their goals altogether. One of the greatest ways to take the temperature of your business on a regular basis is through SEO. Unfortunately, a lot of companies do not know if their SEO efforts are producing the results they want. Due to this, SEO efforts are commonly decreased or eliminated when companies are adjusting their business strategy during a recession. When this happens, businesses are giving up their stake in the search visibility space, leaving more for competitors.

Marketing and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) go hand in hand. Consistent marketing efforts such as blogging and social media, helps to boost your SEO. When businesses are frequently updating their online presence, Google will give them a higher ranking. If you’re not updating your website and being active online, or even worse, not doing any marketing at all, your SEO will suffer. 

It may sound like putting marketing on hold during an economic downturn is a good idea but considering you cannot pick up right where you left off, you’ll likely find it creates more of a challenge. All of the Search Engine Optimization progress you’ve made will be lost if marketing is put on pause, which directly impacts search results and visibility. 

lose brand awareness

Let’s start with Top of Funnel Marketing. This is a marketing strategy that aligns with the earliest awareness stage of the buyer’s journey. Marketing activities early in the funnel build brand awareness and trust over time through educational content that helps early-stage buyers understand their problem that needs to be solved.

The marketing funnel has three stages (top, middle, bottom) that correlate to the three stages in the buyer’s journey (Awareness, Consideration, Decision). Modern marketing funnels take into account that all leads do not progress in a linear and predictable order and that leads can enter and exit at any stage. The funnel is a step-by-step strategy that allows you to guide your audience through the stages until they reach the point of conversion, otherwise known as “make a purchase.” This is why brand awareness is crucial to any business. 82% of consumers need to see a product or service a minimum of 5 times before they make the decision to purchase. Every business wants their brand to be top-of-mind for customers, they want to be the first company a customer recalls when thinking of their industry. But how can you generate brand awareness without marketing? That’s just it, you can’t. Cutting marketing activities also means you stop building brand awareness and in turn stop filling your funnel, which for most companies, would be a huge mistake. Unless you’re a brand like Kleenex or Tide, it is likely that your current brand awareness is not strong enough to make it through a recession without suffering. Instead, try shifting marketing tactics to be better suited to the new values for your consumers. 

Hint: Customers are highly likely to change their spending habits and what they value during a recession. You need marketing to communicate your brand and continue to build awareness, even during tough times. 

lose touch with customers

Even during a recession, people still need products and services. Do not underestimate the power of brand loyalty. Even when budgets are tight, customers always want to find ways to buy their favourite products from their favourite brands. Without marketing activities, communication with your customers is essentially lost. You need to be using this time as an opportunity to foster your customer relationships, by showing them how much you value their loyalty. 

As a rule of thumb, you should always be listening to your customers and target market, but this is especially true during a recession. Use this time to leverage marketing tactics that will respond to the change in your customer’s needs and set you apart from other brands. Showcase the added value that your product/service can offer to customers, as they will be very particular about what they choose to spend their money on. Recessions create extremely difficult times for everyone, the last thing a business wants to do is make their loyal customers feel like they have lost their favourite brand. Even if efforts need to be scaled back, continuing with some marketing activities is a great way to create deeper connections with your customers during a recession. 

miss the chance to capitalize on market opportunities

Before immediately jumping to the worst-case scenario when a recession is looming, businesses need to carefully assess their industry, changes in consumer behaviour and spending habits. It is possible to experience growth during an economic downturn, especially with a clear recession marketing plan. We have seen it time and time again, brands that adjust their marketing strategies, operations, or business model during difficult times can find success. In the past, many brands have found opportunities for growth by continuing their marketing during a recession and conducting thorough assessments of consumer spending patterns. 

The Lipstick Effect is the concept that during a recession or economic downturn, women will choose to indulge in small luxuries like a new Lipstick to lift their spirits while still fitting within their shrunken budget. Estee Lauder is one brand that shows a perfect example of the lipstick effect. The company experienced a spike in sales after the events of 9/11, and again after the 2008 recession. This theory explains how even during tough times, consumers are looking for ways to treat themselves and tend to opt for affordable luxury items, providing an opportunity for growth for specific industries, like cosmetics. 

The COVID-19 pandemic provided us with a lot of examples of companies growing during times of economic uncertainty. Businesses worldwide were faced with unprecedented challenges, and they were forced to make a decision: adjust, or shut down forever. Our own business model experienced first-hand the impact of the pandemic, we shifted from an in-office work structure to the entire team working from home. Other common changes that many businesses made include adjusting their delivery process, offering contactless service, and increasing (or in some cases, just starting) their digital marketing.

Many grocery and drug stores pivoted to offer online ordering during the pandemic, and many have kept up with this service ever since. Take Walgreens for example, they teamed up with Postmates to increase their mobile ordering capabilities and create a contactless shopping environment for consumers. This partnership has allowed Walgreens to accommodate for the change in consumer shopping preferences and fulfill orders effectively and efficiently. 

The fitness industry also successfully pivoted to keep up with the rise in popularity of at-home workouts. Many gyms and fitness companies moved to offering classes and workouts online either through developing their own online platforms, or sharing classes via a live-stream. During the pandemic, the shift to online classes allowed customers to keep their connection with their gym or fitness centre while the world was shut down. Since then, exercising at home has become increasingly popular due to the convenience and affordability, and because of the demand, it looks like online platforms are here to stay. Fitness studios, gyms and fitness brands have experienced the value that their online classes or programs can offer and many have decided to implement it as a core part of their business structure. For example, Nike Training Club has recently launched a series of workout classes on Netflix. This partnership shows that Nike has assessed the landscape and found an opportunity to respond to the rise in at-home workouts. 

The examples above are proof that continuing with digital marketing during a recession or times of economic uncertainty can help businesses not only survive, but experience growth. 


Although it is important for businesses to carefully analyze their budget and cut down on costs, stopping marketing during a recession will only jeopardize a brand’s success and performance over time. Harvard Business Review suggests that companies investigate customer needs closely and proceed to slightly trim down the marketing budget, rather than cut it out completely. Another recommendation is to carefully adjust marketing strategies and product offerings to respond to the shift in demand. These tactics will not only allow you to grow and succeed during a recession but also get a leg up on competition who may have stopped marketing activities. Overall, continuing with your marketing during a recession is strongly recommended to position your business for longevity and growth beyond the recession. 

If you are looking for a new digital marketing agency, we would love to meet with you and discuss how we can help you reach your goals. Send us a message today to get started!