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  • Writer's pictureOli Shawyer

The 'Godfather of Effectiveness' speaks

If you've never heard of Peter Field, and you work in marketing, you better get on to Google.

“The Godfather of Effectiveness”, who wrote a seminal paper about advertising in a recession called “Advertising in a Downturn”, recently broke down his latest research into what lessons from previous recessions still resonate today, exploring how brands should act during the Coronavirus crisis:

Whilst I highly recommend everyone both read the paper and watch the seminar, I appreciate we don't all have the time. Therefore, as an appetizer (in a bid to encourage you to order the main - watch the bloody thing), I've documented some key notes below to get you up to speed:

  1. Don't panic and go dark with advertising spend during this period. Unless of course you are in actual survival mode. It will feel only natural to cut spending (and you will be pressured to) but you will regret it greatly, particularly during the recovery process.

  2. If you can, find savings elsewhere in the business to defend your share of voice. It has been shown again and again that brands that, at the very least, maintain their share of voice throughout a recession, come out in much better position for the long-term. You may 'shore up' short-term profit numbers now by avoiding cost, but you will definitely pay for it down the road.

  3. Better yet, if you can, invest in increasing your share of voice. Take advantage in it being cheaper to do so (as media will be cheaper). With longstanding proof that outlines that increased share of voice drives market share growth, there is a massive opportunity to come out better from this than where you were at before.

  4. Whether you cut, hold or invest, do not go short. The last recession showed that whilst many brands didn't completely cut spend, they shifted a lot to short-term sales activation investment which proved ineffective on long-term profitability. Whilst it's probably fair to say most brands are already too short as it is (with minimal if any investment in brand building activities), it is ever more imperative to invest in brand building activities now.

  5. Don't throw away a good brand campaign. Many brands (and you've seen all the ads) have over-reacted to address the context of today because they think it's what people want to hear, or it's what they have to do. Or worse yet, because everyone else is doing that. It's ultimately resulted in a suite of generic ads that do nothing to elevate the brand and make it noticeable in market. Don't believe me - check out the below video for a bit of a laugh. If it's tonally appropriate to this recession, don't feel the need to get rid of your brand campaign. After all, it will repay you in spades because it will help you to continue building mental availability and connections to your brand that will hold it in good stead during the recovery phase.

  6. Emotions work during a recession. We don't all have to get serious and grim. People want cheering up and therefore authentic and deliverable messages of hope, enthusiasm and encouragement are vital.

  7. Behaviours are vitally important because it's not just about what you say. It's also about what you do in this period as a brand. Recovery and success through a recession won't be delivered solely through advertising. Be innovative, be creative and ask how you can actually help (powerfully and different from competitors) that extends further than just the Promotion P of the marketing Mix. It needs to be much more than a 'we are here for you' EDM which I bet you've never seen more of in this time.

I won't do Peter's work justice, so I very much encourage everyone to watch it, as well as follow up on all the other resources he provides.

Also in the coming weeks, in line with point 5, 6 and 7 listed above, there will be some further work presented on creativity and what ads should look like during this time. I'll be sure to share as I've no doubt many of you are similarly addressing and considering how to present yourself to market today and tomorrow.


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