Ponderosa Brand Strategist, Ross Day, speaks about how brands should continue to be themselves when facing a recession, and why this is the only way for brands to truly connect with people in tough times.
When the world is looking a little rough, questions get asked around how appropriate it is to advertise as ‘normal’. If pitchforks will be raised at anything not directly sympathetic to the mood of the nation.
It’s a fair concern. The risk of being cancelled is at an all-time high. “Everybody gets offended by everything these days” – Ricky Gervais, 2020. Nobody wants to be the one who misreads the room and drops a clangor.
A lot of similar questions were asked during COVID-19. Brands were afraid of being funny, or joyful. Having an edge. Essentially, afraid of being their normal selves.
To understand more about this, research group System1, tested consumer attitudes to advertising throughout the pandemic. The results clearly showed that the responses were basically unchanged. That ads hadn’t lost their ability to connect. People don’t want brands to mirror the way we’re all feeling. Advertising, if anything, can be a rock in a stormy sea. A crumb of comfort. Something to smile about. Nobody wants a depressing black and white ad scored with violins playing through the break of I’m a Celebrity when they’re trying to forget about the real world for a few hours.
Looking at other recessions, the same has applied. So long as the execution isn’t completely inconsiderate, brands should continue to operate as they always have done, and should be their full selves with absolute conviction. If you are a joker, don’t be scared of cracking a few gags.
Taking learnings from 2008, when we find ourselves deeper into a recession, there are certain themes that can be slightly more effective.
Unsurprisingly… humanity, warmth, nostalgia and all that good stuff tends to really strike a chord with people when the chips are down.
A great example of this is the 2008 remake of the stone cold classic ‘Go on lad’ by Hovis.
Watch advert here.
Hovis had increased their share of voice while media costs were down (a smart move), but their competitors had followed suit. Hovis ended up coming out on top by creating a sense of belonging, in a time when it was lacking. By showing a rose-tinted view of the past. By lifting our spirits.
So….no matter what is happening in the world, being led by brilliant creative, being exciting and distinctive, and keeping the proposition at the centre of everything is the way to pull through.
Brands should continue to shine brighter than life, because when it’s dark – it will light up the room.