When economy is good, every product is a brand. Sales are up-everybody is mighty pleased with themselves. Even weak brands do well. This is the time marketing is completely ignored. You are just interested in sales and more sales.
But when economy is down and sales are sliding- suddenly everybody remembers marketing. All CEOs and top executives get involved in marketing process. They believe that marketing will suddenly save them. And this is the time they take stupid decisions. They want to show that they are taking some positive actions.
They conclude, that their strategy is right, but their execution was faulty. So their most meaningful response is to fire lower level managers responsible for execution.
Secondly, they launch couple of new products to get additional sales. It brings addition burden on already thin resources, as they require budgets to promote new products.
Thirdly, they start listening to bean counters, who advise them to go on a drastic cost cutting exercise .So no training, no marketing expenses, no research and no increments. Hence, finance guys -who have no clue what the customer wants, and who have never visited even one customer in last five years-dictate strategy in a downturn
My advise during bad times is as follows;
a) Narrow your focus on key brands during downturn. Do not launch new products or expand brand portfolio, unless you are a market leader in the category.
Take the example of smart phones- Samsung focused on Galaxy range while Apple focused on one product launch at a time. On the other hand,
Blackberry had 15 models and Nokia lost the plot by not focusing on anything, which consumers could adore. Both these brands lost heavily to Samsung and Apple.
b) Marketing will always be creative, intuitive and sometimes illogical. Don’t try to over analyze the strategic route. Keep it simple and don’t discontinue your marketing efforts. Nobody will buy your product because of tons of excel sheets and bar charts.
c) In times of low growth, leaders do not feel good about themselves. They do not like feedback. They have enough excuses for not taking feedback.
This is a huge mistake-feedback will give you clarity and sense of purpose. It also creates faith in management. Moral of the story-if you are in a hole, don’t dig deeper.
The holy truth is that the bad time is a good time to build your brand and gear yourself for the growth in good times.