In recent months, an inconsistent post-covid recovery narrative, clickbaity recession headlines, and incredibly high inflation - the highest in 40 years in the UK - have driven our perception of strong economic headwinds and heightened pessimism about our ability to take on yet another challenging year.
But as the economist and Nobel prize winner Paul Samuelson famously pointed out, "the stock market has predicted nine of the past five recessions.” Samuelson’s point is that our market economies are awfully adaptable, and nothing seems more certain than how little we can predict.
What we also know is that in times of volatility, marketers have the (super) powers to ground organisations in what truly matters and steer the business to good growth.
At a recent Marketing Society breakfast, Giles Hedger, Global Consumer Planning Director at Diageo, said: “the art and science of making a brand special enough to be chosen are unchanged; the current context simply raises the bar and requires brand builders to excel.”
That pressure can be good! Marketing’s fundamental role in guiding businesses to make the choices that will deliver good growth is becoming even more critical. The challenge for marketers is to uncover and tell the positive stories that are emerging from this volatility linked with their sector, brands, and products.
Mastering the art of storytelling also means showing empathy and striking the right tone of voice when balancing the ever-important brand building with promotional moments that will make customers buy. The right stories will unlock growth through new customers, new connection moments, and new routes to market in the year ahead.
Marketers need to focus on what really counts. And in a world where so much of our lives, relationships, and interactions happen online, they know that the data is an often un-tapped or under-utilised superpower. Marketers are at the heart of collecting, analysing, and transforming this data. And the most progressive organisations already leverage this new class of math experts to analyse consumer trends and understand the human opportunities beyond the numbers.
The evolution of data has given many marketers the reassurance or permission they need to guide where and when the business invests in driving good growth. And the more organisations lean into marketers’ power to link this up across the customer experience, the more value they will bring to the business, from proving impact to having the confidence to try something new.
Marketing is the new economics
I’ve recently heard the term "stractical" for the first time. It communicates the importance of tactical activities to help move brands on their strategic journey and captures the immense task at hand for marketers in 2023.
Thankfully, it seems that we’ve learned from previous recessions that those who follow the traditional, play-it-by-the-book thinking get left behind; while those that hold their nerve and continue to use marketing to support their businesses recover faster and grow stronger.
It will not be easy, but I am optimistic marketers can help beat the recession business doomsayers by doubling down on their innate business value. And the companies that trust their marketing leaders will set themselves up to make the most of the economic upswing when it comes.