New marketing in the new reality

I’m often asked, “Will this current economic downturn change marketing?” My first response is that calling this a downturn is like calling the sinking of the Titanic a boating accident. What we are facing is a catastrophe. While a catastrophe is classically defined as an event resulting in great loss and misfortune, its darker side can also lead to utter ruin. We are facing economic and commercial challenges that require levels of stamina and imagination not faced before in business.

We’ve been living in a global economy which has been content with running on credit for more than a decade. Crazy credit that allowed people with no money to buy houses with three garages. Credit that tempted the financial sector into slice-‘n-dice mortgage mode. Credit that maxed out every card in the wallet. Credit that led to major reversals of fortune. That’s all come to a screeching halt and now we are left with bankers, economists, politicians, and experts all telling us how it happened. The truth? Nobody knows.

The new reality is simple. Money is either scarce or just not there at all. This means big adjustments personally and professionally. It means we have to look at this new reality in the eye and accept it for what it is. It means we have to get back to living within our means – a tough call for anyone under 35.

This will be a difficult year for marketing as for everything else. Advertising Age reported that the $2 trillion value of the top 100 brands held steady over the past year according to Millward Brown’s annual BrandZ report, but there are no guarantees. Next year may be worse, may be better, who can possibly tell. That’s the plain truth we face, but the French have a saying I believe will serve us well: ‘Nous croyons en l’homme’. We believe in mankind. People are adjusting and many are doing more than that. They are adjusting, taking a deep breath, and seeking out opportunities with new intensity.

Fashion designer John Galliano nailed it. “There’s a credit crunch, not a creative crunch.” He’s French, he occupies the most rarefied heights of the fashion industry, and the man gets it. With that attitude he’d be a perfect CMO! This is exactly how smart marketers – expert consumer inspired marketers – can win. With ideas. Marketing as an industry will change as marketers themselves change. I have no doubt of that. They will lose a certain arrogance about what they really know. They will understand what priceless value means to consumers. They will play across media. They will love interactivity. They will revolve around great experiences. They will set out to delight and inspire. Any success story post-catastrophe will be dedicated to sustainability, trust, love, and new ideas. Sounds like Lovemarks to me.

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Kevin Roberts

Kevin Roberts is founder of Red Rose Consulting; business leader and educator; author and speaker; adviser on marketing, creative thinking and leadership.


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