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  Jonathan Gabay Lessons from the Downturn: The New Marketing Rules
by Jonathan Gabay
June 4, 2010

There is nothing more precious than a brand’s good name. As brands look to rebound from the global recession, here are the new marketing rules.

Probe. Ask realistic questions so you can understand deeper intentions. Stay alert. When the market moves, you won’t have to play “catch-up.” Speak to customers. Show empathy. Adapt, proving your products or services are supportive. It’s wonderfully true: Listen and people will hear you.

Customers still spend, but in different ways, and for different reasons. Uncover them. Don’t fall into the trap of being another competitor “copycat” fad brand. Retain existing customers by offering long-term value and short-term delight. Customers are trading down, sideways and, believe it or not, some even up. Give a diamond-encrusted reason, bejeweled with valued added benefits, to choose you.


Plan in terms of months and weeks, not quarters and years. Learn the fundamentals of your craft then, to realize your ambitions, surround yourself with devoted experts to get projects done. Recruit the very best. Seek the greatest creative suppliers, project managers, web enablers, designers, writers, retail analysts, and reputation managers that you can afford. Network with people who have seen economies boom and bust. A few gray hairs around the table add tone to the fresh roots straight out of college.

If you stop marketing, competitors will increase their presence, simply by you not investing in yours. This is the era of frugal marketing, in which shrewd budgeting and pragmatic strategies shape hearts and minds. Define your message and meaning, then match cultures.

To hold greater market share, caress one modest sector at a time. The “us” and “them” culture is dead. Be inclusive. Make the most important people in your chain – customers, partners and clients – feel valued as part of a bigger brand experience.

Too many still believe that marketers are overpaid, over-caffeinated manipulators. It’s a myth. Time to be legendary. People aren’t schmucks. Make your innovative marketing more direct and intelligent. Produce creative work that draws a smile of satisfaction in people’s minds.

Customers have neither the patience nor the inclination for propaganda. It’s the big idea that matters, not the size of your organization. Rather than treat people as mass herds, make them shepherds of their own destiny.

Marketing is not an exclusive club. Be inclusive. “Deliver and demonstrate” rather than “promise and pontificate.” You are part of a knowledge economy. Stay informed. Continuous personal development is what you accrue through experience and insight.

Revisit briefs. Do they need more pep, a different direction? Be straight. Are you delivering discernible value?

Work with sales teams, not against them. Involve people, but assassinate with vigor committees that mercilessly kill creativity. Make partners, suppliers and employees brand emissaries. Let them share your brand’s experience with trusted communities and global settlements.

Downturns needn’t be the writing on the wall for your ambitions. Recognize them as calls to stand tall. To begin a successful venture, start. To resurrect a business, rise up. Try ideas that, prior to the downturn, would have been too much effort to even bother with.

Stir enthusiasm and promise by encouraging students to become leaders. Don’t lose your best talent through process-mapping away your integrity. Learning and development goes hand-in-glove with reassuring words and an understanding heart – especially when the climate is tough.

Everything is possible, providing it (a) doesn’t compromise your brand’s integrity, (b) enhances everyone’s reputation. When the recession is over, people will remember what did to them, as well as for them.

   Jonathan Gabay is a creative branding expert, author and the founder of Brand Forensics, a London-based branding consultancy.

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