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Branding, Marketing and Advertising in This Economic Crisis

by Grant Chambers
6 min read

The discussion surrounding branding, marketing, and advertising during an economic crisis is not a novel one. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has perhaps cast a different light on the subject unlike any other time. This crisis isn’t spurred by an inflated housing market or reckless spending. COVID-19 undeniably adds a human, or rather inhumane, dimension to this economic downturn, prompting a unique reflection on the matter.

Branding, marketing and advertising are part of many businesses’ core ability to sustain or grow. We ourselves, as well as many of our clients, have been asking these very questions.

Should you keep advertising?

How should you approach your brand position?

What marketing strategies and tactics should you focus on?

How do you continue marketing while remaining sensitive and not appearing to leverage this economic crisis?


How should you approach your brand position?

In a crisis that’s out of your control, the best way to think about your branding is to show that you care. Now more than ever, you have the ability to show that your brand cares, whether that means promoting the use of your products or services, communicating your compassion for others, or simply helping your community and your team in ways unrelated to your core business.

We suggest starting with the question, “In what ways can you help your customers through this crisis?” Perhaps the answer to that question is a discounted or free service, expedited service or product, more favorable payment terms or some other way to provide extra value.

You might also ask, “In what way can my company help the greater community?”. Are there ways that your team, products or services can help the community, even if they’re not your customers?

Finally, make sure to ask yourself, “What can I do to help my team through this crisis?” Doing everything you can to show that you care can help you come out of a crisis with a stronger internal team and culture.

In the end, an economic crisis is an opportunity to strengthen both emotional and rational ties to your brand.

A restaurant with a sign advertising Curbside pickup during the pandemic.
Photos by Matthew Thornton –

Marketing & Advertising

Should you continue marketing and advertising in this crisis economy?

We’ve helped many of our clients pull back on their advertising spend while helping others maintain or shift their message. While our short answer is “YES”, it’s followed by a quick “but lead with empathy and care”.

If your product or service can help others meet their basic needs, then advertising and marketing in a more aggressive way may be helpful. You should still consider your tone, making sure your approach is tactful. Be strong, factual, helpful, sensitive and consistent.

If your product or service is not what many would consider an essential need, consider changing your tone or perhaps turn your focus to ways that your business can help others get through this tough time. You may also consider donating a % of sales to a charity in need. Taking this approach allows you to lead from an empathetic brand position while continuing to expose your product to existing and potential customers.

If you google “marketing during a recession” or similar, you’ll find a lot of articles that say whatever you do, don’t cut your marketing and advertising! Let’s face it, this is different. You may need to significantly cut your marketing and advertising spend because, your sales or revenues may have gone to 0, 10%, 50%. Whatever the sudden shortfall is, it’s dramatic.

While a cut in marketing and advertising spend is a necessity, don’t stop marketing. Get back to your core set of customer-focused, tried and true tactics and activities that every single business should be focusing on in any economy. Make sure you’re sending your customers emails to communicate your compassion and ways of helping. Do the same with your social channels or better yet, pick up the phone and call them. Make sure your website is up-to-date, search engine friendly and you are considering new ways to serve your customers through it.

Price Reduction or Flexibilities?

Should you reduce your price points as a way to insulate your sales?

While today’s consumers are more price-sensitive and less brand loyal, you have a chance to consider both. Often times, discounting or couponing is seen as brand dilution. We’re certainly hearing a lot of industry experts suggest, “don’t change your pricing because it’ll be hard to go back to your regular prices down the road.”

In this particular crisis, which is so large and touching so many in very dramatic ways, it feels like the right thing to consider is a reduction strategy. We believe this is actually an opportunity to strengthen your brand by offering your customers your helpful products or services at a reduced price or free products or services. As a business who is also trying to sustain or survive, this may help you gain business that you would not have otherwise received.

Check out this “Community Driven Promise” video from Volkswagen and how they’re approaching pricing and payments.

Here’s another interesting headline, “Auto insurance companies return $800 million in premiums because no one is driving”.

A software start-up from Austin that helps CEO’s and Managers lead their organizations,, decided to make their fully-featured version available for free as a way to help businesses through this challenging time.

If a price reduction does not feel strong to you, consider these options:
1. Donating a portion of your proceeds to a local charity that may be strained by recent COVID19 challenges.
2. Providing flexible payment terms.
3. Offer deferred payments.

A usually busy downtime Austin street that is empty due to the pandemic.
Photos by Matthew Thornton –

Address COVID-19 Head On

COVID-19 has affected the way most any business works. I can’t think of one that has not, and at a minimum, everyone has implemented a new level of cleanliness or distance cautioning. Hopefully you have already taken your own precautions. If you have not taken the steps to communicate your plan to your customers, make sure to do so.

While this type and level of crisis has never occurred before, we’ve seen countless brands step up to the plate with sensitivity, helpfulness, innovative and community-driven approaches. There are more ways than one you can help your customers get through this. And by helping them, you’re helping yourself.

We hope the above helps you weather this new kind of storm in some way. If you have questions or need our help in any way, feel free to reach out.

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