Building a Brand In a Recession

The recent recession saw sales of condoms, guns and burglar alarms soar. This is because, when fear enters our mind in terms of losing our job or of not being able to pay bills, we focus on two of our most basic drives: fear and sex.

The key to selling and building a brand during financial crises, therefore, is simple: manage fear. Understand how it works and how it affects purchasing behaviour. This advice on brand-building during a recession comes from Martin Lindstrom, ex-advertising agency executive, author of Buyology, and one of TIME‘s 100 Most Influential People in the World, 2009.

First, there’s always good news in bad times. A standard approach in this situation is to address consumers’ problems. And people always have problems. The fact is we rarely know what we want, but we have no trouble pointing out our difficulties. For example, no one knew they wanted an airbag, but everyone agreed they wanted safer cars.

It’s therefore important to ask yourself what sort of problems are consumers facing during this economic recession? There are many. […] Convert problems into assets for your brand.

Second, add a practical dimension to an irrational decision. No matter how much money you may have in the bank, or how secure your employment may be, it’s now fashionable to save your money and buy everything at a discount. What can a brand owner do? Particularly in light of the fact that a discounted brand typically takes seven years to recover!

The answer is simple. Add a practical dimension to the equation. […]

Third, you have to systematically remove fear. Hyundai did it. And a stream of new banks are doing it. Both have succeeded in identifying why consumers are reluctant to spend. Once this is understood, then you can harness it and build a better product by addressing the fear and finding a way to eliminate it. Your sales may be down. But do you know why? People are certainly buying less, and explanations like, “Well, there’s a recession going on out there,” are not helpful. What’s important is to understand the fundamental role of fear, and then turn it around to strengthen your brand. Some of the world’s most enduring grocery brands were built on the back of the Great Depression. Each one turned the threat into an opportunity.