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How GROWTH BUSINESSES can avoid bog standard creativity during economic uncertainty.

If I’d had a donut for every time I’d read something preaching the benefits of spending on marketing during a crisis I’d now be clinically obese. It’s not that I don’t share this view - it is important - but there are caveats.

Over the past 6 weeks we have been overloaded with generic toilet paper ads, indistinguishable from one another. I’m not poo-pooing the sentiment or the execution of these ads, but unfortunately I, along with many others, have turned off. As I sit here writing this I'm trying to recall a memorable coronavirus focussed ad and I can’t, they’ve all blurred into one. This comes from someone who works in advertising, who watches ad breaks with interest. If a hyper engaged individual can’t recall any ads, I can assure you that the cut through to the general public is even less.

Production methods have been limited, but this in the most part hasn’t stopped some well-scripted pieces being made. But herein lies the problem, every brand seems to have followed the same script. For big brands with big marketing pots, it maybe doesn’t matter, it’s a tick box exercise - generic coronavirus marketing done. But smaller growth brands don’t have this luxury, they need to be more disruptive.

It may be true that brands that keep on marketing during challenging times do come out the other side stronger than competitors. During the financial crisis in 2008 a study by Millward Brown showed that 60% of brands that went ‘dark’ during the economic downturn saw ‘brand use’ decrease by 24 per cent and ‘brand image’ decrease 28 percent. So it definitely pays to keep on advertising. But it doesn’t mean completely dropping your previous marketing strategy.

In 2008, brands didn’t focus solely on the recession as inspiration for their creative. Strategies were adapted, the economic climate was taken into account, but advertising was still a diverse mixing pot of creative ideas. That can’t be said of the current advertising output.

More so than ever, wisely investing in marketing is essential for growth businesses that don’t have huge marketing budgets. Here are my thoughts on what growth businesses should be doing during this period of economic uncertainty.

Do adapt your marketing strategy, but don’t change it completely. Find out what is important to your customers and look to cater for their needs.

Do what you can to help people during these challenging times, but don’t let that be the focal point of your marketing unless it fits seamlessly with your existing marketing plan. Also, be genuine. Consumers can see straight through a flimsy good will initiative.

Do be humorous. It’s a bleak old world out there with news feeds dominated by pessimism. Make audiences sit up and pay attention with things that brighten their day. Tasteful humour is a great way to do this.

Do take a long term view. If you can afford to, keep your marketing budget the same as it was pre coronavirus with the view that you’ll reap the rewards further down the line. Your share of voice (SOV) will be larger because your media spend will go further than it would pre coronavirus. If you do need to reduce your marketing spend, don’t worry, it will still likely reach the same amount of eyeballs as pre corona because of the favourable media buys.

Do take advantage of favourable media buys and increased audience levels. With TV viewing up by 60% and people plastered to their phones there is the opportunity to reach more people than ever for a considerably cheaper price than usual. For example TV buy is 40-50% cheaper than usual. This is unlikely to happen again.

Do invest in creativity. This as a general rule should always be taken into account. But it is more important now than ever. Avoid the pitfalls of the generic coronavirus ad.
Do use this period of economic uncertainty to focus on brand comms. Brand building ads that connect on an emotional level will perform far better than salesy ads (Field, 2020).
Do think of this current situation as an opportunity to put a stake in the ground for your brand. Consumers have never been more receptive to innovative new products, so use this time to take on the big boys and increase your SOV.

Do be disruptive with your comms. Now's the time to be bold, to grab people's attention, not to play it safe.
If you’d like to find out more about how Hell Yeah! Can help you avoid the current advertising pitfalls, drop me an email at


May 14th 2020

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