Market Your Way Through a Time of Crisis

By Ken Hammock, Certified Radio Marketing Consultant

Unprecedented time! That’s what is being said over and over again. But the truth is our nation and economy has faced similar economic challenges many times. Each past challenge had its own unique circumstances, too. However, the premise of strategic marketing and outreach during any crisis remains virtually unchanged.

Churches, non-profit organizations and businesses must maintain their brand before and during a crisis to reach the end with stronger affinity and hopefully greater respect and influence.

When economic challenges occur, several options are available to marketers:

  1. Cut back to bare bones or go silent all together.
  2. Maintain moderate marketing presence being cautious with minimal media placement, and steam forward slowly.
  3. Just keep status quo. Despite circumstances just keep on keeping on while remaining malleable to content and relevancy.
  4. Take advantage of the opportunity to gain the “Share of the Mind” of those hearing your messages. This is not to capitalize on a crisis. Rather, it’s being out there with a relevant and tactful message when others are not.

Other organizations, non-profits, and businesses will be cutting back. That is a given. This exodus diminishes the advertising noise level and offers an opportunity to be heard more loudly and intently without static interference. Your message might be the only or one of the few heard or visible. The opportunity might allow you to achieve absolute top-of-mind recall by those seeking your message, product or service.

  1. This provides a chance to show the strength and stamina of your outreach, not moved by circumstances during tough times. If someone needs what you’re providing, they will want to trust your ability to be there in good times and bad. Strength builds trust.
  2. It allows the unique opportunity to reposition your brand or introduce a new offering, message, or outreach. When the noise level is low, your moderate exposure may be the only voice heard. Lower noise level means your message is heard more intently.
  3. Marketers who cut back jeopardize their positioning and opportunity for absolute top of mind recall or “share of mind.” Loss of market share, loss of impact, loss of any potential or growth.
  4. Maintaining or even increasing marketing presence improves dominance and trust. A larger share of the mind translates into a larger “share of market” – thus increased awareness, affinity, interest, and growth. For businesses, this means sales and profits.

Here are a few of many corporate-based examples from a Forbes report dated September 2019:

  • During the 1990-1991 recession, the most dominate fast food chain was McDonald's. They decided to decrease their marketing, while two other chains increased their presence. Pizza Hut and Taco Bell increased their budgets and visibility. Pizza Hut sales jumped 61% and Taco Bell increased 40%. McDonald's sales dropped 28%, and to this day they’ve never really regained their dominant status. 1
  • In the 1920’s, Post was the top household brand for cereal. But they gave it away when they cut back on their marketing, and Kellogg’s took a more aggressive approach. They stepped it up, and now Kellogg's by far has the virtually insurmountable brand awareness and sales. 1
  • In the 1970’s non-domestic vehicles did not have the foothold on the American auto industry that it has today. Yet, in the 70’s while Toyota had solid growth and brand loyalty, it was Volkswagen which led the non-domestic brand. During the downturn, Toyota maintained their aggressive market presence, and today they are America’s leading non-domestic branded automobile company. Volkswagen, on the other hand, has become virtually a non-issue in its category.

During the coronavirus shelter-at-home, according to Nielsen ratings, 83% of American adults are turning to Radio as their main source of connection to information and the outside world. 2 Plus, during a crisis like now, sometimes the rates and packages are much more affordable. This allows smaller, local organizations to be very competitive in perception and visibility with larger organizations.

Like Branding, broadcast marketing is a marathon. The mass media platforms allow dominance during crises times, and carries your brand through the upswing at the end of the tunnel. Therefore, strategic thinkers will keep their marketing and even double down. It’s a gobble-up-the-share approach. During a recession or economic downturn, you MUST keep talking to your public.

Additionally, you must make sure the message and content of your campaign is outward focused. Use your campaign to be a resource and avoid a heavy pitch. Opportunists appear self-serving. So, create a message that says you care, be a friend or ally, and soften the hard sell. The direction of the campaign will make all the difference.

Remember, when times are good you should market your business. When times are bad you MUST market your business.

Canceling a marketing budget is short sighted and this one decision can have long-term implications and consequences, if not disastrous  for future growth.

Here are some ideas to consider:

  1. People are still looking for what you offer. Top of mind prevails.
  2. Remind them that you are open and serving others just like them.
  3. Inform your audience about the cleanliness and sanitary steps being taken to keep the facilities and personal
  4. contact healthy and  environmentally safe.
  5. Drive interest towards your website traffic.
  6. Thus, offer the convenience and safety of home delivery, shipping, or curb-side pick-up.
  7. Remind consumers why your brand or business matters in their lives.
  8. Partner with first responders, medical, government resources or other organizations to provide your own “local” crisis updates.

Now, go conquer your share of the mind and market. Survive and thrive.

Let me know if I can help.

Ken Hammock has earned certifications through the Radio Advertising Bureau as a Certified Radio Marketing Consultant, Certified Digital Marketing Consultant and a Certified Sales Manager. He is a frequent writer, blogger and marketing specialist featured by multiple Atlanta area chambers of commerce and the moderator of FaithNetWorking Atlanta.

1 Source: Forbes September 5, 2019, “When a Recession Comes, Don’t Stop Advertising” Brad Adgate contributor
2 Source: INSIDERADIO April 23, 2020, “Niesen: 83% of Americans Spending Same or More Time with Radio Due to Covid-19”

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