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Depending on the headlines you believe, we’re either heading for a long ugly recessionor parts of the world are already in one. Either way, it’s not pretty — and consumers and advertisers are bracing for impact. Even in July, when markets showed temporary signs of recovery and gas prices fell, 54% of US adults said they plan to retreat on their expenses for the remainder of 2022.
While that means cuts and even layoffs are a reality, it doesn’t have to mean that your advertising dollars no longer work for you. Lessons from the past give us a good idea of what consumers think and what that means for advertising in the coming months.
Related: 6 Recession Proof Business Marketing Strategies
Consumer behavior during economic downturn and recessions
A recent study by Stanford quantified how different consumers experience economic downturns and recessions differently. During the Great Recession from 2005 to 2009, self-identified Hispanic and LatinX households lost 66% of their wealth, and black households lost 53%, while white households lost only 16%. In 2010, when the overall unemployment rate was around 10%, it was 16% for the black community and 13% for the LatinX community.
That means those consumers lived in a different economic reality and behaved very differently when it comes to how and where they shop and what is important to them in marketing messages. In other words, reaching consumers in the right mindset and context is more important than ever, especially as the holiday season approaches. So, what do we know about this new world order?
Consumers are very price sensitive: They always have been, but they are now more price sensitive than ever before. More US consumers reported transfer to different brands and retailers in 2022 than at any time since the start of the pandemic as people look for value and cheaper prices.
They cut in extras and delay big purchases: One in five consumers reduces the number of subscriptions and postpone big purchases such as buying a new car or moving an appointment major home improvements.
They buy less: They move to a lake conservative and sustainable lifestylewith 18% experimenting with reselling their personal belongings and 15% buying more second-hand or refurbished goods.
Omnichannel shopping is the norm: 45% of consumers say social media influences their purchases, while one in ten omnichannel shoppers said they have already made direct purchases through social media. It is a channel that is becoming more important by the day.
According to McKinsey, the expenses delayed for some categories that have increased during the pandemic, such as household goods and electronics. Categories that showed recovery in 2021, such as retail clothing and restaurants, remained stable this year but may struggle as the downturn continues. Other industries better insulated from economic downturn include most consumer packaged goods, healthcare, technology and politics, especially in the US during a key midterm election year. And you can expect growth in areas such as electronics, nicotine products, nonprofits and the public sector. Automotive, financial services, tourism, transportation and alcohol, on the other hand, are likely to remain relatively flat.
Related: Why You Should Never Cut Back on Brand Marketing in a Recession
How to make your ads recession proof
But whether you’re isolated or not, the same rules apply to meeting consumers in the moment with your marketing. Here are some ways to make your ads recession proof:
Show why your products matter: Your ad messages should indicate why people should spend money with you and not elsewhere.
Make your brand human: Build an authentic connection with your target audience by understanding their mindset and understanding what matters most to them.
Innovate with products: an unbelievable 64% of the successful brand campaigns support new product launches in a recession.
Place your ads in context: When ads are displayed in contextually relevant environments, they are a better experience for people and work harder for brands; are contextual ads 2.2 times more memorable.
Take the opportunity to gain market share: While competitors are cutting back, now could be your time to get your message across and win new customers.
Recessions and downturns are difficult. Point. But they don’t have to be limiting. According to studies by Bain & Company and McGraw-Hillcompanies that proactively prepared for an economic downturn grew with a compound annual growth rate of 17% compared to 0% in companies that didn’t prepare — and companies that maintained or increased their advertising budgets saw a 256% increase in revenue compared to companies that cut their advertising budgets.
Ultimately, consumers still need to buy products, they just need you to meet them where they are, even when times are tight. Keep your posts useful, human, and authentic — and deliver them in context — and they’ll reward you with their loyalty, often for years to come.