Is marketing optional?

Usually I read the NY Times or WSJ while riding the subway to work each morning.  But yesterday the paper was stolen so I picked up the nearest magazine I could find.  (No, I don’t read my Kindle on the subway). It just happened to be the  newest issue of the Harvard Business Review.

This issue contains an excellent article by John Quelch and Katherine Jocz, “How to Market in a Downturn.”  I strongly recommend it.

Here is one key passage:

During recessions it’s more important than ever to remember that loyal customers are the primary, enduring source of cash flow and organic growth.  Marketing isn’t optional — it’s a “good cost,” essential to bringing in revenues from these key customers and others.

Still, company budget cuts often affect marketing disproportionately.  Marketing communications costs can be trimmed more quickly than production costs — and without letting people go.  In managing their marketing expenses, however, businesses must take care to distinguish between the necessary and the wasteful.  Building and maintaining strong brands — ones that customers recognize and trust — remains one of the best ways to reduce business risk.” [emphasis added]

There are lots of good recommendations and tactics in the article. 

Quelch and Jocz emphasize the importance of staying in touch with your audience as their psychology changes.  Research that was done even one or two years ago may now be completely out of date. It’s a strong argument for doing deep dives into subconscious of your audience.  

The article points to a larger issue which is alluded to but never quite directly stated — this is the time for companies to reinvent marketing.  The risks of changing the marketing methods and strategies is now far lower than the risk of continuing with the same models developed 10 or 20 years ago.

Making marketing more effective doesn’t mean spending more money.  It means questioning old assumptions and taking a fresh look at every aspect including how marketing works with the rest of the organization and the tools and techniques of marketing.

All of this good stuff from a chain of coincidences — stolen paper, picking up HBR.  This post would be very different if I had picked up Vanity Fair or People instead!

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