Saturday, March 21, 2009

Advertising still the best economic stimulus.

In a recent Fortune contribution, Bob Pittman points out that the government's stimulus plan won't work if we don't get consumers spending again. He says the government needs to provide help for American businesses to advertise their products and services.  they sell.  

Pittman says he wants to see a tax credit for ad spending. Not a bad idea. Here in Florida, the cash-strapped legislature is in panic mode, and they're looking at eliminating some long standing sales tax exemptions. Yep, that includes advertising. It could happen, believe me. And the damage it would do to the industry, and to all businesses throughout the state who will cut advertising budgets even further, would be devastating. 

The Florida view comes from a rather unfortunate and widespread notion that advertising is a cost. Pittman points out that it is an investment. The guy is my hero this week because he's absolutely right. Advertising is the thing that will get the consumers who do have the money, but are sitting on the fence, to get in the game and stimulate the economy by purchasing the things they need. And yes, they will still be able to get the best deal while most retailers and service businesses are cutting prices.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

It's time to reconnect with consumers.

Recently I was invited to participate on a panel discussion for a joint meeting of the Advertising Federation-Suncoast and the Central West Coast Florida chapter of the FPRA. The overriding topic for this well attended session was best practices for small businesses in a recession.

To be successful in a weak economy, marketers have got to do three things...

Get back to fundamentals, reconnect with their customers, and instill confidence.

Let's start with the fundamentals. Whether a mom and pop or a big box retailer with hundreds of stores, look for ways to increase efficiency an cut costs. Be careful not to make broad, arbitrary cuts in marketing because that's, as a colleague of mine recently stated, like stepping on your oxygen hose.

Re-connecting with the consumer is simple, but it's amazing how many marketers do not take advantage of all the opportunities they could to make those connections. Get to know your customer - understand him/her. Establish what really makes them tick and you can develop offers that are tailor-made for them. This process starts, however, with a well-defined brand personality. Without this, everything you do becomes more difficult, more complex and more costly.

My last point is about instilling confidence in your consumers. We all know that as this recession keeps its grip, consumer confidence continues to slide. Make sure that every communication reassures your consumer that you will be there for them, for the long haul. A confident attitude, communicated with consistent, high quality techniques will reassure the consumer. The so-called economic experts in the media can talk about Wall Street all they want, but for most people, Main Street is the major indicator. If local businesses are keeping their heads up and reaching out to potential customers, that expression of confidence will be contagious.