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Have you seen the billboards? You know, the ones with people wearing masks as they dine out or shop for cell phones. The media economy has entered the post-quarantine recovery phase, and it’s started to be reflected in advertising. Brands are positioning themselves for this “new normal.”

But not everyone has come aboard. There are a lot of brands that remain in shelter-in-place mode.

We get it. Your instinct after something like this is to crouch and protect. But while it may seem like the intuitive thing to do as a recession blooms, it’s actually the worst thing you can do right now.

The best thing you can do is not play defense but go on offense. It’s time to show what your brand’s about while also spending money prudently.

Be prepared, because you will need to be proactive, and it’s not going to be easy. But you can navigate these choppy waters and come out the other side with a stronger, smarter brand — and a much better grasp on your branding.

Advertising: An Investment That Pays Off Again and Again

This is the single most important thing you can do during a recession. Yes, we’re an agency, so you’d expect us to say this. Yes, you can also trust that this is the truth. Don’t just take it from us.

Brad Adgate, a longtime agency executive who now writes for, published an article nearly a year before the pandemic began exploring the wisdom of advertising during a recession. He cited a study that found that companies that continued to advertise during a weak economy also increased their sales and market share.

Advertising During a Recession: The Case Study

History supports this approach, too. During the Great Depression, Post, then the dominant cereal company, reduced its advertising budget. Upstart rival Kellogg’s increased its ad budget. What do you think happened? Not only did Kellogg’s see a massive increase in profits (30 percent!), but it also introduced a new cereal, Rice Krispies, that came to define the brand.

Here’s the Secret: People Are Still Spending Money

What those outside of the ad industry seem to misunderstand during hard times is this: It’s not that people have NO money. It’s that they have LESS money. And so they will spend it accordingly. If you aren’t asking for some of that money, then you’re not going to get it.

People still spend on the things they are passionate about. While personal spending did drop quite a bit in April, it did not stop outright. Quilters still bought quilting supplies. General aviation pilots still rented planes to go flying. Photographers still purchased new lenses. People are just spending more judiciously, so you need to give them a better reason to spend.

Advertising to Maintain Branding

If you are not reaching out to convince consumers that your brand is worth spending money on, then you will be left behind. When you aren’t top of mind, you’re out of mind — so advertising should position you to be at the top of your potential customers’ minds to preserve your branding.

Presumably, you worked hard before the recession to develop your brand. You are a friend to pet owners or the voice of your generation or just really funny. Whatever identity you have established, you need to continue to show people those characteristics during the recession.

It’s comforting, in the midst of instability, to see a stable and confident brand. By showing the world you aren’t panicking, you further your brand identity, too. And you provide a measure of calm amidst an uncertain time. That’s certainly something you want associated with your brand.

Advertising During a Recession: What to Remember

Now that you’re convinced you should be advertising, let’s talk about how. We’re not saying you need to, or even should, advertise in the same way you did before the pandemic. Honestly, it feels kind of jolting right now to see billboards where people aren’t social distancing or don’t have masks on, as if they’re living in an alternate reality.

You can adjust, make prudent decisions to save money, and continue to brand, all at the same time. Here are five tips to keep in mind:

  1. Look for effective ways to deliver your message. If you haven’t used out of home advertising, now is the time to invest. CPMs are much lower than many other media, inventory is available, and the return on investment is outstanding.
  2. Be sensitive. These are weird times. Don’t come on too strong. Don’t act like everything’s okay. Deliver an honest message. It will resonate better than something that’s superficially upbeat or, just as bad, totally depressing.
  3. Think of others. Some of the best advertising we’ve seen recently thanks our first responders and frontline workers for their dedication during this tough period. Thinking of others is always a branding positive. Do it sincerely — people can sniff out when brands just say something nice for the brownie points.
  4. Consider budget allocations carefully. Media habits changed during the quarantine (who would have thought TV watching would ever rise again?), but keep an eye out — they will continue to evolve as we hit different points in the recovery. That is to say, TV watching is already down again and billboards are back in vogue as we restart our commuting. So make sure when someone tries to tell you to blow up your budget that the new method is sustainable.
  5. Be flexible. Media channels have been impacted, and you may not see the same deals offered now that you did pre-pandemic. Be ready to look elsewhere or consider new ideas. Just make sure there’s data behind them.

Are you interested in trying outdoor or want to reconsider your current budget? DASH TWO can help you. Contact us to discuss how advertising during this recession can bolster your brand.

1 Replay added “Protecting Your Brand During Hard Times: Advertising Can Help You Get Through the Recession

  1. Thank you Gino for this article. So true. In time of crisis like now, we need to spend money on sales and marketing. This will make the difference with other businesses even if they don’t buy now, they will remember you later. Kellogg’s is the perfect example. Thanks

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