Branding with leaner, meaner budgets

Most often it’s marketing that is first on the sacrificial altar of budget cuts. It offers the immediate gratification many organisations require at the time of forecasting in a troubled economy; calming nerves and placating shareholders or executives with leaner cost projections. However, the very same people who need appeasing are the people who will not tolerate reduced demand for their products or services; thus expecting the same outputs with less financial input!

Can it be done, and if so, how and at what long-term cost? The answer to this question depends on a number of factors:

  • How qualified and quantifiable is the current marketing spend; have past initiatives been effectively measured and linked to outcomes, equipping decision-makers with the data to make a judgement on results vs. spend?
  • How strategically and creatively agile are the professionals entrusted with this budget; can they face the current challenge positively and with passion; identifying or creating and managing new and exciting ways to reach and exceed expectations.
  • Have the marketing team and / or professional partners kept up-to-date and educated on the channels, media, technology and tactics available? For example, new developments online and in social media offer cost-efficient alternatives to traditional media, although this territory must be carefully and strategically managed to ensure that there are no failed promises or poor content management damaging to the brand.
  • Is the brand strategy sound enough and flexible enough to weather the turbulence and stay on course? Is there unquestionable focus and understanding of the business strategy and the markets (as a changing dynamic)? Brands that lack traction with their target markets are soon forgotten for those responding to the current realities, such as the economic pinch being felt throughout.
  • Is there accurate and up-to-date data on both the current and potential client base? In an era where those with information triumph over those without, this data is invaluable. It allows a brand to develop traction and strategise on how to generate growth by investing and maximising current relationships as well as targeting and attracting new ones.
  • Is there sufficient insight into the operating structures of the organisation enabling marketing to work in partnership with other business units such as; sales, manufacturing, distribution or finance? This relationship merges intellectual power and complementary skills to construct solutions that could potentially offer price savings, increase demand, incentivise or call for product improvement or development.
  • Are there strong and healthy industry relationships and comprehensive market knowledge; tools necessary to identify and partner with like-minded brands built on similar values; that complement and do not compete? This offers the potential for leverage campaigns, sponsorships, co-branding and other marketing tactics designed to reduce spend without compromising effectiveness.
  • And lastly and most importantly; do you have the courage to work harder and smarter? Because like Anais Nin said, “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage”.

So in answer to the question presented earlier; yes, it can be done. How… depends on your brand status, your information and knowledge base and your marketing team and professional partner’s skills, agility and courage. And at what cost… hopefully at no cost to the brand building of the past and ironically, adding to in ways that surprise and delight your market, demonstrating your traction with them.