There are several ways to identify an economic downturn. For the stock trader, it is the birth of an inverted yield curve. For workers, it’s a sharp rise in unemployment; for economists, hard-core inflation. For business owners, one of the most common signs of an impending recession is the decrease in Customer lifetime value (CLV).

CLV measures the net profit a business can generate from a customer during their relationship. This includes the amount they spend on the product, the frequency at which they spend and the number of referrals over a period of time.

When a recession takes place, customer spending reduces. This, in turn, significantly reduces their CLV. However, this might not be all bad if your business can leverage some recession-proof strategies that will help you survive the heat. 

In this article, we will discuss 7 viable recession-proof marketing strategies. Follow closely and apply them to be ahead of your competitors.

What is a Recession?

A recession is defined as a period of economic downturn where there is a widespread drop in spending. Before World War II, recessions used to last as long as 3-5 years. However, recent analyses from Capital Group shows that it will last for an average of 10 months

Although recessions no longer last long, they are often followed by a period of struggle. Employees are laid off, inflation rises, prices of houses drop, and there’s a decline in industrial production. The pandemic recession, for instance, lasted only two months. However, the U.S. economy did not recover until July 2022.

Are We in a Recession, or Is It Coming Soon?

Most countries are not in a recession at the moment. However, with the rising rate of unemployment and inflation, economists say to expect it soon. Global Economy Analyst reports that the U.S. is 30% likely to enter a recession next year.

Successful marketing is a process that demands consistency over time. History has repeatedly shown that businesses willing to invest in marketing consistently experience faster growth. As the saying goes, “You SHOULD advertise when times are good; you MUST advertise when times are bad.”

Companies that kept investing in advertising during the recessions of 1981–1982 and 1974–1975 experienced greater growth than their competitors who reduced or completely stopped spending on marketing; in 1981–1982, these companies saw a startling 256% growth. During the 2008 recession, advertising spending fell by 13% as many firms lost their trust in the economy. However, statistics showed that businesses that maintained their marketing output had 3.5 times more brand visibility.

What we’re trying to say is that depending on how prepared you are, it could become an opportunity for your business. 

After all, since you now know not to stop on marketing, you should find a way to up your marketing game. This is precisely what renowned brands like Netflix and Airbnb did and will continue to do during a financial crisis

While several brands cut down on marketing, they went harder and smarter. As we discuss further, you’ll find more examples and better ways to fortify your business against the threatening recession.

Before Executing These Strategies

You Need To Set Aside Some Resources

Marketing strategies involve both paid and organic marketing. Every business should do a combination of both thus you need to understand how it can be integrated into your business. Either ways, you have to set aside resources that involve manpower, time and effort and a sufficient financial budget to allow these marketing strategies to reach a sizable audience size.

A recession might make it difficult for you to retain in-house employees. Thus, whatever marketing strategy you choose must be outsourceable. This includes delegating them to agencies and skilled creatives where possible.

You Need To Know Your Audience Well

If you want to ensure that your marketing strategy is setup for success, you need to know your audience well. Every marketer in the business needs to have a clear understanding of who their target audience are. Look deeper not only into their demographics, but also research into their psychographic, geography and behavioural traits.

Your marketing strategy must tailor its messages directly to your audience. So know your audience well and create marketing strategies that will attract their attention.

You Need To Be Prepared To Use Data Diligently

A recession-proof marketing strategy must be capable of maintaining the revenue stream of your business not just to keep your business afloat, but also to allow some business growth. Therefore, you should track everything that is important to track as accurately as humanly possible.

This includes your ROIs, the amount of effort and manpower required, the amount of time, etc. No resources should go to waste. Put a stop to marketing efforts that have poor returns, and invest more into the ones that are doing well.

You Need To Start With Looking Into Your Business

During a recession, many businesses lie low. They lay off their employees and reduce their marketing spend and efforts. It never works well. So first off, try to change your mindset! Look at a recession as an opportunity for your business to establish itself as a worthy competitor.

Use this time to do a SWOT analysis with your team. Sit down and figure out your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. This will help you make a better judgement on recognizing a recession-proof marketing strategy.

The 7 Recession-Proof Marketing Strategies

Money and time are extra valuable when a recession happens. Your customers’ CLV and spending habits have changed with fear being a common reaction for most of them.

Chaos is a stepping stone to success, and insights from ICAEW proves it. It reports that brands with recession-proof marketing strategies got 3.5 times more brand visibility than others. Here are seven strategies you can leverage to have even better results.

  1. Reassess Your Brand Positioning
  2. Leverage on Data-Driven Insights
  3. Take a Value-Based Marketing Approach
  4. Review and Boost Your Marketing Budget
  5. Review of Pricing Strategy
  6. Execute Contextual & Behavioural Ads On Digital Platforms
  7. Build A Personalised Email List

1. Reassess Your Brand Positioning

People judge one another by what they see and hear. It’s the same way they treat businesses. This is why brand positioning is crucial. Brand positioning is a part of branding that deals with how your customers perceive you. The goal is to get them familiar with the specific traits you want to be associated with.

If done correctly, it could determine if customers will stick with you even when the recession is over. Different brands should review their Unique Selling Points (USPs) to position themselves better. To search for your USPs, you can start off with your product/service quality, pricing, solution approach and any barriers to making a sale.

Apple is an excellent example of a brand that has positioned itself well. Apple’s USP surrounds their idea and execution on innovation, design, and customer experience. Apple has invested millions in advertising funds to maintain this positioning. This, in turn, has made it a market leader in its industry.

Speaking of industries – not all industries are impacted equally or negatively during a recession. Your company can look into the industries that are unaffected by the recession to help it stay afloat when it experiences no growth or loss. The Healthcare and government sectors, which have consistently remained almost recession-free in recent history, are two industries worth exploring.

2. Leverage on Data-Driven Insights

Having actionable data in hand is like a weapon necessary for marketing wars. Undoubtedly, this is the reason some brands have remained as industry leaders for decades. The correct collection, interpretation, and implementation of data will determine whether your business will survive the recession.

Data can be used everywhere – Internally within your business and externally with your customers. You can understand your customers’ behaviour, needs, and preferences by looking at specific user behavioural data. This way, you can be sure your marketing and product development is on point as you leverage on data to create better customer experience.

An example of a company that uses data well is Target. A few years back, the American department store chain was able to target people based on their buying habits. It could tell what stage of pregnancy a woman was in and recommend relevant products.

3. Take a Value-Based Marketing Approach

Value-based marketing is simply incorporating value into your marketing. It goes deeper than speaking plain words or trying to win your audience with sales tricks.

Value-based marketing appeals to the morals and values of your target audience. Beyond your customers interest in your product or service, this strategy’s main goal is to establish a true connection with your customers. What you are aiming for is to create a strong, genuine and authentic connection with them, building trust.

If your brand resonates with your audience in a powerful way, they’ll be more than happy to engage with you and share your brand through word-of-mouth.

This strategy starts with identifying your target audience and understanding what values support and hold closely with them. Knowing this will allow you to create a stronger connection with your audience and differentiate you from your competitors.

Consumers look for several qualities in brands that engage in values-based marketing:

  • Value systems that are familiar as a result of their personal experiences.
  • A genuine position that demonstrates the company really upholds the values they preach
  • Brand decisions and actions that demonstrate their adherence to these values
  • Interactions with brand ambassadors that are meaningful and strengthen the customer’s overall engagement with the brand
  • Support for certain causes and organisations that your customers support

More than ever before, consumers place an importance on brand loyalty and authenticity. Customers like it when a company stays authentic to its core values, mission, and marketing message. They choose to buy the brand’s goods and services as a result of their brand loyalty. Many Gen Z and Millennial customers even claim that they are more inclined to spend more money with companies who share their beliefs than with those that don’t.

Platforms like YouTube are wonderful when taking this approach as it allows brands to build rapport and create trust with their consumers. With YouTube being a platform that encourages long form video content, it gives an opportunity for brands who are willing to put in the work to create videos that allows their consumers to understand who they really are. So, if you’re not on YouTube yet, do not sleep on it as it should be part of your all-time social media marketing strategy, especially if you’re targeting Millennials and Gen-Zs.

4. Review and Boost Your Marketing Budget

Due to reduced consumer spending, you might be tempted to slash your marketing budget. However, several statistics have shown that it’s a terrible idea. Reducing your marketing budget might help you avoid short-term losses. Still, it will do you more damage in the future.

Statistics from ThinkImpact show that a 5% increase in customer retention leads to a 25% increase in company revenue. However, if you cut down on your marketing budget, you might be left with very few resources for customer retention.

The best thing to do in this case is to review your budget. Separate your core advertising activities and estimate their influence on your revenue. Then, optimise your marketing campaigns by taking the budget out of the less influential campaigns to the more influential campaigns.

Big corporations like Coca-Cola know that being at the top of customers’ minds is essential. Even after one century, it is still highly committed to advertising. Between 2015 and 2019 alone, it spent over $4 billion on marketing.

Naturally, businesses typically need to put in more effort to survive a recession. Financially struggling competitors may lose their marketing focus, put off projects, curtail some activities partially, or have difficulty introducing new services. In the most recent recessions, advertising expenses fell by 13%. This should be seen as an advantage for you as your company will be in a better position to gain greater visibility, and ultimately accomplish more with less money. All thanks to decreased media advertising prices.

5. Review of Pricing Strategy

When a recession strikes, customers are more frugal with their purchases and frequently opt for service bundle offerings and affordable price models. Businesses in the product sales industry will use incentives like extending product sales, promotions, and interest-free credit to persuade customers to make purchases.

Other strategies such as introducing additional services at a different pricing point, are available to service businesses firms. Marketers call this strategy as introducing a “fighter product or brand,” where a less expensive version of the premium good or service is offered under a different brand name.

Instead of selling at a price that will dip your business further, restrategize your pricing. Figure out how you can bundle your products or services so that you could give a higher perceived value.

Before you do this, first you need to uncover what ‘absolute satisfaction’ is to your client. What exactly is the value that they look forward to from your business? This will provide other relevant answers like the quality of your product and service, perks, payment terms, etc., to add value to your product.

A relevant example is what Netflix did in October 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic when it increased its subscription fee. However, their subscriber count did not decrease as viewers saw Netflix bringing in value into their lives through entertaining content.

6. Execute Contextual & Behavioural Ads On Digital Platforms

We mentioned previously that you have to be personalised to your audience. The more you are personalised with your marketing message, the more they will be inclined to engage with your business. One way of doing this online is to run contextual and behavioural advertising.

Contextual targeting chooses contextually appropriate material to offer advertisements to, whereas behavioural targeting delivers ads based on a user’s prior browsing data to boost personalisation. Let’s look at the difference between contextual and behavioural ads.


  • Not subject to privacy regulations because it doesn’t use or collect cookies.
  • Uses context of a user’s search “journey” to show them the right ads.
  • Ads align with what a user is searching as well as with their values, which allows for advertising without sacrificing your reputation.
  • Contextual ads are always relevant because they’re based on what a user is actually searching, watching, or reading.

Example: A music store wishes to promote a Christmas sale. In order to do so, they run a contextual ad campaign which targets the “Music & Hobbies” topic to serve their ads to websites which feature content about music.


  • Leverages cookies, and may be affected by evolving privacy regulations concerning the use of cookies in browsers.
  • Relies on hard, historical data of users’ search history and what sites they spend the most time on.
  • Limits control over the website on which your ads appear.
  • Historical data or past behaviour may not always be relevant because it may not align with the user’s current needs or buying patterns.

Example: Through third-party identifiers, a formal clothing company is able to identify users who have recently been purchasing and researching clothes on various websites – behaviorally targeting an advertisement for formal wear such as suits and shirts towards users who have shown purchasing intent.

At the moment, we can see that contextual targeting has more benefits and is more effective when compared with behavioural targeting. This is because:

  1. It doesn’t use any third-party cookies that most internet users nowadays would try to avoid.
  2. It targets users based on current interests instead of past interests.
  3. It aligns the ads with contextually relevant content.
  4. It is much easier to scale as no historical data has to be collected.
  5. It is compliant with privacy regulations like GDPR and CCPA.

While behavioural advertising delivers more precise and detailed targeting, contextual advertising gives you independence from third parties and eliminates privacy concerns. You may combine contextual and behavioral advertising, as most businesses do. So we suggest testing them out for yourself and see which gives you a better ROI for your industry.

7. Build A Personalised Email List

You probably have heard this before. Email marketing is one of the most cost-effective means of marketing. Statistics show that it is the most used marketing strategy with 81% of B2B marketers executing email marketing. And it’s efficient too! Salesforce records that 50% of customers buy at least once monthly through emails.

Building a robust and highly-customized email list helps you connect with your customers before, during and after any recession. It helps you to further build a strong brand identity and send personalized messages to prospects.

To build one, start by creating a lead magnet. This will attract people to your email list, where you can nurture them.

You can use your personalised email list to share your new products or updates on your services. Remind your customers of abandoned carts, share tips on getting the most from your product, and even create referral marketing campaigns so that it is a win-win for you and ayour current customers.

One brand that does this well is PayPal. It relates personally with the audience while placing itself as the solution they need.


To survive hard times, you must be well prepared. Therefore, now is the time to sharpen your marketing, regroup and restrategize to go against your toughest competitors. The playing field is level now, and it’s your time to come out as a bigger winner.


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