The do’s and don’ts for tackling a recession in 2023

Experts within Ponderosa and Audience Collective Group – Steve Henry, Richard Midgley and Mark Garrett – share some key insights for ‘Staying Noisy’ in 2023.

With the world facing a financial crisis and the UK looking down the barrel of a recession, marketeers all over the British Isles are taking a sharp intake of breath, seemingly knowing their budgets are likely to be cut first.

So how should brands respond?

Ponderosa and Audience Collective’s recession veterans (the wise, creative folk that they prefer to be referred as) talk through how brands can face head on into a recession.

Whilst Steve and Richard founded Ponderosa during the 2008/9 recession, there is no silver bullet to knock this issue out of the park, but there are some key learnings to be had.

To put into context, there are several differences this time around, that being double digit inflation, the war in the Ukraine affecting supply chains, an unsettled government, and the media building daily on an agenda of fear drawing us into a negative spiral…which is helping no one.

With all this change going on (and we all know most people don’t like change) this is the time when our fight or flight mechanism truly kicks in. In this case, there’s the risk of businesses talking themselves into a state of paralysis, no longer performing, keeping quiet. It would be naïve to think changes aren’t afoot, but now is not the time for silence.

Here are some tips that have shone through from our recent #StayNoisy discussion, to help do that very thing…


They say, You can run but you can’t hide” …and this time has arrived! Businesses and individuals may try to escape what they fear, but ultimately, we need to face the recession head on and remain visible.

If you disappear, customers will remember – stopping guarantees failure. We’re all in this together and people will feel comforted that you are still around. Stay visible, keep engaged and keep being smarter.

Many of us know what happened to Coca-Cola in when it “paused” its global advertising spend during the worst of the pandemic months. Advertising investment was cut by 35% and £2bn was wiped from the company’s communications budget in 2020. Pepsi got the upper hand on Coca-Cola and posted a 5% net revenue growth for the year. Coca-Cola posted a 11% decline in net revenue.

However, our brands aren’t all Pepsi sized, so when there simply isn’t as many coffers in the tin – how do we achieve the noise and stay visible?


Don’t second guess what your client, agency, workforce is capable of, or are going to do. Open the lines of communication, build on the relationships, be honest. How confident are you in all areas of marketing? What are budgets looking like? Will there be any changes within the team? Once you know the potential worries…problems…hurdles…they can be addressed.


Being open and honest – on where you are looking to cut back, areas of concern, levels of confidence and budgets can lead to greater efficiencies.

There are always ways to become more efficient – doesn’t the proverb say that “Necessity is the mother of all inventions? Increased efficiency doesn’t mean compromising quality.

Now’s the time that creativity really gives a true bang for its buck. We’re always hammering home about how, many northern agencies can help that budget go that bit further, and it’s by looking at efficiencies, creative, workable ideas and smarter packaging of services with recession bespoke products, that this can happen.

It’s very easy to spend a lot of money – harder to make it go further. There are deals to be done.


Think client first and you could have a client for life. Show clients how you have the confidence to take on the recession by utilising insights and planning.

It’s not them and us, you’re getting through it together and now is the time to show the lead. Over the next year, hopefully no more than 18 months, riding the storm simultaneously and finding opportunities to come out stronger. With the right focus, clients will remain loyal and you will have clients for life.


Brands that think long term will be the ones that survive better.

We of course need to look at the here and now – indeed, finance officers will be looking at the numbers week-on-week, month-on-month…but it’s key to utilise planners and strategists to focus on the long-term options and not get caught up on what is in front of our face. Brands might need to batten down the hatches in monetary terms, but not creatively.

It’s a time for a long-term stream of noise by reviewing value and if appropriate, stepping up creativity.


Looking long-term, insights come more to the fore as brands must understand what consumers need to do and changes they need to make. Depending on the sector, each industry will fair differently during 2023 – some being more recession proof than others – interestingly we generally love our vices and don’t always give them up. So, using beer as an example…if we don’t want to give this up does it mean the hospitality business thrives, more premium drinking at home or go the other way and totally cut out the habit?

This is where insights are invaluable. It provides solutions, helps spread costs, adds value and supports long term planning.


Of course, you’d expect to hear this from a communications agency but make sure you communicate with agencies, suppliers, consumers and your workforce. Be open and honest and let them know you have a plan.

Treat people with respect – everyone has the mortgage to pay, heating bills and have their own worries to deal with. Empathy is what’s needed.

Reinforce the core business, looking at why consumers fell in love with you in the first place and only make changes if they will benefit the consumer. Not surprising the John Lewis Christmas advert made such a cultural phenomenon back in 2008/2009 as this reinforced comfort, with an element of nostalgia strengthening trust for the brand.

And before we know it, that’s where we are again…Christmas, let’s make sure we’ve got a plan wrapped up ready for the New Year!

To get to grips with, and tackle the recession head on, get in touch to see how we can pull together, be smart, set a plan, use insights and remain noisy.

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