In Silicon Valley the recession is over. Houses are selling, people are being hired and consumer spending is up. While the same may not be true of the rest of America, or of many countries in Europe, it’s clear that most of the major economies are clawing their way out of recession. This creates an interesting challenge and opportunity for brands, not just in terms of financial gain, but also in terms of how they are positioned. During recessions consumers behave differently, they measure brands differently. In recessions price, for example, is king. Other factors such as what the brand says about our status, matter a lot less. In other words consumers are wired differently in recessions and will listen to different messages and join in different conversations about brands.
So what should brands do when the good times return? First, they shouldn’t wait. Any brand that hasn’t already defined how it will adapt as the economy improves will get left behind. But to do that brands need to understand the exactly what their customers are talking about now that they weren’t talking about six months ago. This kind of research can be done by analyzing social networks and other online communities but it has to be done properly and taken seriously. Indeed I’d argue it that this research in to the attitudes and opinions of the post recession customer is the most important act a marketer can undertake right now. Good research will provide the platform for the brand for the coming years. And let’s face it the next few years are crucial in the brand wars. To make the point, I worked with brands that studied how customers attitudes had changed going in to the recession. This research changed their messaging and their behavior at a crucial time. One of these brands has since been widely recognized as a poster child for dealing with a recession.
Of course the research is only the first step. Brands need to figure out how how to act on that research. They need to decide what conversations they can now leave and which they can now join, how to behave in those conversations compared to the past. In short it’s a whole new playbook. For brand heads sitting there without a post recession playbook, this ought to be a worrying time. For those with one in hand, these are the good times. Enjoy!