An economic downturn is no time for branding strategies to play nice; it’s no time to play safe. In order to seize your market share, you’re going to have to take advantage of the death of weaker brands.

Most businesses will pack up their branding strategies, sink low and hide out during a recession. This means that consumers will be trolling for new suppliers. If your brand is already established, now’s the time to tap into consumers’ emotional memories with your legacy brand. Remind them what your brand has meant to them in the past, whilst showing them how it’s adapted to the present and how it’s gearing up for the future. If your brand is more of a fledgling, or a start-up, get ready to demonstrate how your brand is different and just how valuable that difference is.

In a recession, consumers fear making bad decisions. By shrinking into the shadows, brands add to the fear; but if they extend a hand to both existing customers and shoppers, they will offer moral support and give people the comfort of knowing they’re making a good decision.

Branding Strategies like Nike’s


Immediately following the 1987 stock market crash, athletic gear super-supplier Nike increased its brand spending by 300 per cent. The result? It emerged from the subsequent economic unrest with profits that had increased by 900 per cent. Conversely, McDonald’s cut spending during that same period. As a consequence, it lost a great portion of the lead it had established in previous years (as opposed to Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, both of which increased recessionary spending and increased their market shares).

How can business owners and brand managers like you make their branding strategies recession-proof? Here are a few pieces of advice from How to Build a Brand:

  • Empathy: Even when the economy starts to recover, as it is now, consumers are still feeling injured and hesitant. Rather than dropping your prices to make your brand the cheapest, communicate that your brand is the best value – that’s what today’s consumer wants the most.
  • Trust: This is a key point in building a brand, and it’s also crucial to preserving and building that same brand during a recession (and recovery from that recession). Again, people are uber-sensitive to how they should spend their money. When branding strategies find ways to let consumers know that their money and their time are being invested in industry-expert products and services, those brands win.
  • Innovation: Branding strategies that anticipate shifts in their industries and stay in front of consumer needs always win. Be the brand that the others try to imitate. Be the brand that retailers want on their shelves. Do something new, but necessary and relevant, and you’ll stay out in front – even during an economic downturn.
  • Preservation: Your brand should preserve its core values – never change them to fit what you think will work in an economic downturn. Brand strategies should evolve to meet contemporary needs, but should maintain their visions, or the reasons the brands were establish in the first place.

You may have heard that ‘when the going gets tough, the tough get going.’ However, have you heard that the tough one – who is also innovative, empathetic, trustworthy, and courageous – wins the battle of the branding strategies? When the market turns bear, turn bull to seize your market share. That’s what Nike did, and so can you.

In other words, just do it.

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