Sunday, July 13, 2008

Defending Your Budget or …

… Marketing in a Depression Recession

I don’t seem to touch on straight marketing much in this space for a few reasons. First, there are several sites in that column to the right of your screen that already do that and, well, they got here first.

Second, the Dominant Narrative Theory is about a broader zeitgeist than just the marketing territory, although that’s probably the most common application.

Finally, marketing is a big part of what most of us do everyday – including me – and it’s hard to talk about specifics without crossing that imaginary line between principles and principal. The more responsibility one has and the larger the organization, the greater the likelihood of client conflicts.

Marketing depends on the dominant narrative. Without some understanding of the audience’s current perception, we’re just rattling the proverbial slop bucket. Which in itself …

The current economic situation is more than a media cliché or neurosis. It’s the environment we work in. This environment doesn’t have time for survival of the fittest; it’s survival of the best, or quickest, adapter.

There is no perfect historical example for any challenge. We look to history not so much for models as for lessons. But we live in a time when a great many marketers, CFOs, CEOs, boards of directors and investors have never seen economic stagnation, let alone contraction. They may not know those lessons.

When demand slows, their dashboard shows a limited number of levers:

  • cut (everything)
  • change (strategies &c., agencies, marketing personnel)
  • redeploy (shift focus to what’s working this quarter whether it’s a category or a segment)

None of these options does much for all that long-term branding and goodwill you talked about in the interview.

What’s a marketer to do?

Make your narrative part of – or aligned with – the Dominant Narrative.

We’re seeing this already. What 18 months ago was a “green” energy-saving product is now an economic imperative. What was a “convenience” extravagance (like meal replacement in supermarkets) now is thrifty family entertainment.

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