A recession is coming. The only question is what shape it will be: V, U, L or a W? Whichever letter of the alphabet it turns out to be, it will be a challenge. Businesses will need to make use of every asset they have available. Your brand can be an incredibly powerful asset, so we want to explain how to prepare your brand for a recession.

What is your brand?

Your brand is the experience that people have of your business. Good or bad. This customer experience is influenced by every interaction people have with your company, however large or small. You have the opportunity to influence the experience of your customers, by controlling different aspects of your brand.

In a recession this can be incredibly powerful. In times of uncertainty people are looking for something they can trust. Reliability. A point of reference. Something more substantial and durable than price. That’s where brand – your brand – gives you a competitive advantage. It gives you the opportunity to stand out. It gives you the opportunity to be more attractive, more appealing, more relevant and, ultimately, more successful than your rivals.

But in a recession the budget for branding and marketing activity is often the first to be cut. In the UK, marketing budgets have dropped significantly, since March. They have fallen at the fastest rate since the global financial crisis in 2009, as the impact of Covid-19 has become apparent. It’s an easy way to reduce costs.

However, analysis of previous recessions indicates that reducing branding and marketing activity has a negative business impact, in the long-term. A significant amount of data has been gathered from recessions over the past hundred years. It consistently demonstrates the benefit of maintaining investment in branding and marketing during a recession. Companies that continue to spend on branding and marketing, come out of the downturn in a stronger position. Their increase in sales and market share is consistently stronger than competitors who cut spending.*

If you want to enjoy these long-term benefits, you need to understand how to prepare your brand for a recession. There are three aspects of your brand to consider:

Brand strategy

Your brand strategy is a plan for making the best use of your brand, to achieve your business goals. It brings focus to your business, so you can identify what’s most important and make the best use of your resources. In a recession, this is more important than ever.

Business isn’t static, and neither is your position in the market. Competitors change; they launch new products and target new sectors. Customers change too; their needs and expectations evolve over time. In a recession this will accelerate. In the current Covid-19 situation this has happened at an unprecedented rate. It’s estimated that the evolution of ecommerce in the past three months has reached a level that wasn’t anticipated for 5-10 years.

In an uncertain environment, your brand strategy will bring focus to your business. It provides a framework, to help you adapt to change. As we stand on the brink of recession, it’s important to review your brand strategy. It’s an opportunity to adjust your plan, so you can respond in the most efficient and effective way.

Brand identity

Your brand identity will help you to raise your profile and stand out from your rivals. In a competitive environment your brand identity is your introduction to the world. For this reason it should be distinctive and memorable, so you can make an impact, in print and on screen.

Your brand identity is actually a collection of six tools, which provide everything you need to deliver your brand proposition to your audience. That’s why it’s so important. Your brand identity turns your brand into something physical; something that people can see and hear. The six elements of your brand identity are: your logo, typeface, colour palette, imagery, language and design style.

As you prepare your business for an uncertain future, it’s important to review your brand identity. Consistency of the image you project will be vital, in an increasingly crowded and confused environment. It’s important to have all the visual tools you need.

Brand management

Brand management will drive your business success more efficiently and effectively. It is the process of building a relationship with your customers, through managing the quality of their experience. Brand management gives you the opportunity to monitor the consistency of your marketing. Not just the visual presentation of your brand identity, but also the consistency of your message.

In a recession this vigilance is even more important. The margin for error is much smaller during an economic downturn. It’s more likely that customer behaviour won’t follow familiar patterns. Consistent brand management allows you to identify any problems as soon as they occur, and make adjustments. But brand management will also help you to spot the opportunities. It will identify circumstances where there is the potential to increase sales and reach new customers.

With uncertainty on the horizon, now is the time to reconsider your brand management activity. It’s important to consider what aspects of your business activity you review, and how frequently.

An economic storm is coming, and you will need to make the best use of every asset you have. Your brand is one of those assets. So take the time to consider how to prepare your brand for a recession. The time and resources you invest in your brand will drive your success through the recession and into the recovery that follows.