November 04, 2008

Good Strategy For Bad Times

This guest post is by Sharon Krinsky. Yesterday, Sharon described the three types of businesses and how the wisdom of advertising during recessionary periods was different for each. Today she talks about creative and media strategy for a recession.

During difficult times it's more important than ever to be practical and realistic about what you're trying to achieve by spending money on advertising. We have certain principles we guide our company by (you can find them in Bob's book, The Ad Contrarian.) Two are particularly relevant in times like these:
  • First, create advertising that is focused on changing behavior, not attitudes.
Contrary to what most people think, behavior is easier to change than attitudes. It is easier to convince you to eat a Big Mac than convince you that a Big Mac is a good thing to eat. It is easier to convince you to go to Las Vegas than to convince you that going to Las Vegas is a smart thing to do.

Trying to change attitudes is a difficult and expensive proposition under the best of circumstances, and this ain't them. For the time being, ignore your agency’s brand babble and focus on giving your customer a practical reason to try you now. (By the way, getting them to try your product is the best way to build your brand, but that's another story.)

Give her a good reason to change her behavior. She will respond to a good deal; a service enhancement; a special offer; meaningful product differentiation; innovations; new benefits, etc.
  • Second, target the heavy user (high-yield customer) in your category.
For example, in the fast food category, one-third of the customers account for between 70 and 80% of sales volume. In many categories the same is true.

Now is the time to go after this heavy-using, high-yield customer. Economic conditions are causing them to re-think their habits. They are willing to reconsider entrenched brand loyalties.

You have a unique opportunity to get them to give you a try. Find out who they are, and design your advertising to appeal to them.

Advertising during tough economic times is not for the timid. You’re going to be asked a lot of difficult questions by those in your company. However, if you have a good reason to advertise, and a clear, sensible and practical strategy, advertising can be a major asset in seeing you through these times.

Sharon is president of Hoffman/Lewis, San Francisco and St. Louis. You can reach her at

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