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.