In times of economic uncertainty, marketing budgets are typically among the first on the chopping block. Many CMOs may have the knee-jerk reaction to roll out the classic recession playbook, which often means cutting back on what’s harder to prove – namely, brand marketing – while prioritizing performance campaigns. 

But if we take a step back and consider it from a consumer perspective, that short-term fix can have reverberating effects. We look to brands to help us live our lives better, to feed our families or get us to work, and there’s a lot of trust built into these brand relationships. Brands that stay connected with their customers through a recession will maintain their loyalty. 

I recently spoke with Advertising Week about how marketers can recession-proof their advertising budgets through building their brand while making the most of their ad spend. 

Marketing is an investment, and sustained investment in brand advertising translates to improved awareness and performance. In this current economic climate, advertisers have a rare opportunity to take market share and gain a competitive advantage. 

We can learn from past economic downturns and see the conclusive results: recessions reward aggressive advertisers. Studies show that sales rose dramatically for companies with strong advertising during a recession, over those that cut ad spending. Moreover, these companies gained significantly higher net income gains during the recession and, even more so, two years later. In a less noisy ad environment, it’s easier to be seen and heard, enabling companies to solidify their customer base, retain or gain business, and position themselves for future growth. 

With a historical analysis of past recessions, the short and long-term benefits are evident. How can marketers use these learnings today and prove the value of brand ad spend now? Brand advertising is seen as harder to measure, and if you can’t measure it – especially in a recession – it’s going to be the first thing cut. 

Fortunately, recent advancements in technology are helping brands to justify the impact of marketing dollars in a more immediate and accessible way. With artificial intelligence (AI) and real-time data, it is now possible to connect brand to demand. Together, they take human thinking and scale it across the open internet, allowing marketers to understand connections in consumer behavior faster – which is what drives great performance. 

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For example, imagine a campaign where yoga enthusiasts keep popping up as an ideal audience for a Las Vegas travel special. That’s certainly not a combination you would traditionally pair together. But if I told you that I love yoga and am heading to Las Vegas for a yoga convention, then it would make sense. As humans, we can’t search the entire open internet; we need AI to make the connection for us. Quantcast’s AI and machine learning engine, Ara®, is able to identify a correlation between consumers looking at flights and yoga accessories at the same time. Equally as important, the data that powers these insights needs to be in real time, because 30 days ago, that connection wasn’t relevant, and 30 days later, it will be too late. 

Another game-changer is that advertisers can now measure brand lift in real time, using Brand Lift Live by Quantcast™ (BLL), and optimize campaigns in seconds. We’ve found that advertisers can best leverage that real-time understanding of brand lift by creating full-funnel campaigns with awareness and conversion tactics. This combination enables them to reach a wider but also more zoned-in audience, driving better results and performance across all tactics. 

Our clients are finding that the impact of performance ads is directly connected to brand advertising. Because they are able to be more effective with their audiences, they’re achieving broader reach and increased sales. With advances in technology, the value of brand advertising is far more measurable, allowing marketers to see exactly what activity is leading to return on investment (ROI). 

Marketers no longer need to view brand spend as a non-accountable line item to cut; rather, it’s a tool to be used strategically to both weather this economic storm and drive business. By investing in brand advertising, you can drive performance results and recession-proof your ad budget. 

Learn more

If you missed my interview with Advertising Week, you can watch it on-demand here. To find out more about unifying brand and performance campaigns for better results, read Redefining Brand Advertising for Modern Marketers and How Top Brands Are Driving Stronger Performance from Brand Spend