6 Go-To Marketing & Creative Strategies for Advertisers In a Recession

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During tough economic times, no brand wants to end up on a list of top cringe-inducing campaigns or epic advertising fails. But the problem is, you still have to keep driving sales and working to meet that bottom line, even — or perhaps especially — in a recession.

So, what’s the solution? While it may seem tempting to abstain from advertising altogether, this would be a big mistake — particularly for businesses that sell essentials like groceries, clothes, and medicine.

As McGraw Hill found, companies that continued to advertise during a recession in the 1980s saw 256% higher sales than their competitors post-recession. Meanwhile those who didn’t advertise saw a 0% market share increase and meager 18% rise in sales.

After all, with some brands pulling back on their spend, ad costs will likely decline, providing an opportunity for others to swoop in, find new, relevant audiences, and acquire customers at a lower cost.

So, how can brands continue to advertise and drive performance but remain sensitive to changing needs and behaviors in the rocky economic climate?

That’s where these recession marketing creative strategies come in.

1. Double down on creative that’s already working.

If your numbers are starting to fall, no need to panic just yet. Remember that you already have a solid foundation of assets at your disposal. So you don’t necessarily have to start from scratch.

Just review your current creatives and pinpoint the top performers. Then, weed out the dead weight and double down on the campaigns that are working. While you run those ads that are proven to resonate with your audience, you can start building and testing recession-specific campaigns.

According to Planning Dirty, recession campaigns often fall into one of these four categories:

  • Simple Luxury: Marketing everyday items as elevated luxuries to help customers appreciate the little things in life.
  • Escapism: Indulging and entertaining customers who are looking for a break from real-world woes.
  • Durability: Demonstrating a product or service’s lifetime benefits in relation to its immediate need.
  • Value: Focusing on the practical advantage of a product or service, rather than the cost.

If you’re not sure where to start, you can even take your top-performing assets and rework them to meet changing customer needs and pain points. For example, if you’re a finance brand with an evergreen blog post called, “10 Tips for Long-Lasting Financial Success,” you can try to reframe and republish it as “10 Tips to Recession-Proof Your Finance.”

2. Choose a recession-specific creative strategy.

Now it’s time to start building a distinct strategy that helps you engage customers in a recession. While that’s easier said than done, of course, you can use one of these key angles to guide your messaging:

“We Understand What You’re Going Through”

Let customers know you understand their struggle, and use your campaigns to build an emotional connection with them. In fact, 44% of successful campaigns in a recession take an emotional approach.

Discount grocery store Save A Lot, for example, launched the “We’re Here For You” campaign during the COVID-19 recession of 2020. The ads doubled down on the company’s mission to provide people with affordable and quality essentials, which is especially important during tough financial times.

“We’re Here to Help”

Face the economic challenge head-on and use your platform to proactively help communities in need. In 2021, for instance, Starbucks donated $1.7 million to hunger-relief charity Feeding America to help people access nutritious food.

“We Have The Answers You Need”

Consumers are doing research now more than ever. Especially during a recession, they’re likely to be extra careful about how and where they spend. So make sure you can provide the answers and information they’re looking for.

  • That means your landing pages might highlight helpful price comparisons, product features and benefits, and customer testimonials.

3. Save video from budget cuts.

Budgets might be slim during a recession, but if you’re able to save video from those pesky cuts, it could pay off. Since people are watching digital video more than ever before, you can use this dynamic format to tell immersive stories and humanize your brand image, which will deliver high performance results in return. Specifically, you can create video ads that:

Build an Emotional Connection

Use video to address consumer pain point, like managing finances during a recession and taking time to focus on what’s most important. That’s why Coors launched its “Could Use a Beer” campaign to promote togetherness during the 2020 recession, inviting people to virtually send a free round of beer to their friends.

Put the Spotlight on Real People

Showcase real people with real stories and solutions, like your staff, clients, partners, and consumers. JBM Recruitment, for instance, used LinkedIn to share brief, “40 Minute Mentor” videos from industry leaders who offered their insights on how to navigate a changing work world.

Highlight the Community You’ve Built

Share the ways in which your brand gives back. Just look at eBay. The e-commerce giant created a campaign to highlight how thousands of small businesses across the UK were surviving the pandemic and helping to fuel the economy.

Tell Immersive Stories

Engage in storytelling that humanizes your brand and goes beyond just selling products. With Taboola video ads, for example, you can add a title and description below your video to provide context and drive your key message home.

Deliver Concrete Results

Video doesn’t just have to be a top-of-the-funnel format. It can — and should — be a key part of your revenue-generation strategy. For instance, you can create videos with clickable CTAs peppered throughout. And you can retarget video watchers with sponsored content ads that motivate them to learn more about your brand and convert.

4. Put people front-and-center.

People connect with people — particularly in times of hardship. So build your creatives accordingly.

To help, we studied Taboola Trends data and campaigns, and discovered best practices for creating image ads during a recession:

  • Showcase people with your product. Feature close-ups of people looking directly into the camera, supported by the solution your product or service provides.
  • Feature familiar faces. Include experts in your industry, thought-leadership figures, and noteworthy ambassadors to build trust and authority.
  • Celebrate togetherness. Visualize people in small groups, helping and reassuring one another as to remind consumers they’re not alone during times of hardship.
  • Focus on solutions, not bells and whistles. Display the key benefits and solutions of your products, highlighting how they can make a practical difference in people’s lives.

A supermarket, for example, might run these recession ads that showcase real people and stories:

You can also level-up your image ads with Taboola Motion Ads, which use a short video asset or GIF to grab user attention in-feed and convey your message. Motion ads generally improve CVR by 10% and improve CVR by 20% for a purchase KPI.

5. Target and personalize to reach high-quality audiences;

Now is the time to be extra careful with your targeting. You don’t want to get caught paying for traffic that doesn’t actually drive conversions. You want to know that you’re only reaching qualified, interested audiences. So take this opportunity to double down on advanced targeting and personalization tactics like:

  • Dynamic keyword insertion (DKI) & audience callouts or flattery. Tools like DKI place specific keywords in ad titles based on certain factors, like the user’s location or the day or the week the ad is delivered. You can then target and call-out these audiences with special promotions and personalized messaging.
  • Numerical data. Use 5-star ratings, awards, testimonials, and accolades to quantify and illustrate your success.
  • Ad descriptions. Ad copy doesn’t have to be limited to just headlines. Use descriptions to tell more of your story and incorporate trending keywords that attract the most relevant customers.
  • CTA buttons. Grab people’s attention and drive them towards a specific post-click action like “Read More,” “Sign Up,” or “Shop Now” to boost performance.
  • Action words. Supercharge your headlines with impactful phrases in(parenthesis) or [brackets]. These action words almost serve as a secondary CTA, inspiring a consumer to keep reading and engaging. Example: “Here’s A Title About Insurance (Start Saving).”

6. Follow through with these strategies post-click.

People that click through to your landing pages are more important than ever, and should take every measure possible to make sure you nurture them along their path to purchase. That means you have to optimize your site to match customer behaviors and drive conversions.

Use these tried-and-true landing page best practices to make that happen:

  • Position your brand as a trusted authority, diving deeper into your mission, initiatives, and values.
  • Feature additional content like blog posts, immersive videos, interactive quizzes, or downloadable assets.
  • Provide timely and relevant information that speaks to current events and the economic climate.
  • Answer consumers’ questions with further research, statistics, and FAQs. Especially given the pandemic and economic uncertainty, consumers are now more likely to research brands before buying and consider competitors who are able to clearly communicate their value.

Your Recession Marketing Toolkit

Recession marketing doesn’t have to be so scary, as long as you have the right tools and strategies to do it with precision and sensitivity. To recap, you can use these creative key takeaways to fuel your recession marketing campaigns:

  • Run top-performing creative assets and weed out what’s not working
  • Position your messaging with a recession-specific angle
  • Use video to build an emotional connection with your customers
  • Create images that showcase real people with real stories
  • Qualify audiences before they click with targeting and personalization techniques
  • Optimize those landing pages to drive conversions

As always, Taboola is here to help. At a time when every click, bid, and conversion counts, you can use our platform to reach audiences outside of expensive search and social channels. We’ll pair your ads with premium placements across our network of top publisher sites — so you can engage interested, targeted customers who are ready to hear what you have to say.. We also have the tools and expertise to help you execute the recommendations above, including:.

  • Video Ads: Focus on brand values, heritage, commitment, and storytelling.
  • Titles & Descriptions: Showcase the benefits of a brand’s product or service, supported by personalization.
  • Images & Motion Ads: Visualize people or solutions, and leveraging familiar faces and community.
  • Content & Landing Pages: Provide education and information, addressing FAQs while supporting research-forward consumers.
  • Audiences: Build prospecting ads that focus on delivering long-term value. Retargeting ads can also directly address immediate necessity, driving clicks and conversions.

Taboola will help you advertise during the good times and the not-so-stable times, so you can make the most of your resources and hold fast to the one rule of recession marketing: Just keep going.

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