What 2008 Taught Us About Advertising During Economic Turbulence

Meredith Atlanta About The Author

May 15, 2020 at 11:15 AM

Advertising during economic uncertainty_ COVID-19

During the 2008 recession, many businesses struggled with how to react. They needed strategies that would help them continue to service customers while simultaneously protecting their interests, which is very close to what we’re experiencing now. Throughout the 2008 recession, companies that continued to advertise saw immense benefits that helped them afterward. While some businesses strived to keep their doors open, others were being created behind closed doors. Some of our favorite businesses--Venmo, Uber, Slack--were founded during that time of turbulence. If the uncertainty of 2008 taught us anything, it’s that even during times of great stress, great things can still come of it.

Continuing to Advertise Proved to be Beneficial

Businesses that continued to advertise through the economic downturn saw benefits both during and after the turbulence. Not only did they keep up their advertising momentum throughout the crisis, but they also provided a vital frame of reference that helped customers think positively about them as the recession came to an end. Thanks to those advertising efforts, many businesses came out successfully on the other side. Here are a few businesses that saw success from continuing to advertise:

  • Amazon sales grew by 28% in 2008 due to continued innovation throughout the recession. 
  • Dominos turned their recipes and other needs around, which increased sales substantially in the aftermath of the 2008 recession.
  • Snuggie offered a unique new product that fit the needs of customers who were eager to stay home and save money--and the brand turned into a recession hit.

Continuing to advertise and be innovative throughout the recession helped these brands maintain momentum and reach new heights. By providing products and services that people needed during those times, these businesses came out stronger and with deeper relationships with their consumers. 

Leaders in Industry Prevail

The industry leaders who continue to market their businesses are the ones that ultimately come out on top after a time of uncertainty. Consider Post and Kellogg's. During the recession of 2008, Post stopped advertising, while Kellogg's actually increased its advertising budget. As a result, Kellogg's became the market leader--and launched a new cereal in the process. 

Businesses that continue to advertise at a steady rate or increase their ad spend throughout a time of economic turbulence will notice a positive impact: increased sales, higher performance in the industry, and a greater percentage of the market. 

New Products and Services Arise

Many amazing businesses were founded during the 2008/2009 economic crisis, some have become icons around the country. While consumer spending in some nonessential areas may decrease during a recession, spending in other areas may increase--and savvy marketers take advantage of those opportunities. Here are some brands that began during that time:

  • Credit Karma, founded by Ken Lin during the 2008/2009 recession, offers free credit scores and reports. This vital service has become incredibly familiar and is recommended to Americans who are hoping to improve their credit score. 
  • Venmo revolutionized bill sharing making it easier to request money from friends. This service was particularly vital during the recession providing an effortless way for groups to share the expense of social gatherings, and provide assistance to friends in need without using cash or traditional, slow-moving banking services. The platform, however, has continued to rise in popularity ever since, becoming a convenient way to virtually transfer funds between friends. 
  • WhatsApp launched in 2009 allowing for people to communicate in a more affordable, universal way. Since its launch, WhatsApp has become one of the world's most popular messaging platforms, allowing for voice, video, and text communication, as well as easy document sharing between users. 
  • Uber was created in 2009 after two businessmen couldn’t get a taxi at night. This innovative service made it easier and more affordable for people to acquire more accessible transportation. Now, it’s proving to be extremely lucrative with its expansion Uber Eats as people are having to stay in and order delivery.
  • Slack, a popular collaboration tool, makes it easier for groups to work together--and it arose out of the 2008/2009 recession when a developer, Tiny Speck, had a need for internal collaboration while creating a game. It’s also experiencing an even bigger demand right now as most businesses shift to working from home.
  • Square started out simplifying mobile payments and handling financial transactions in 2009 as a way to help small businesses and street vendors with their credit card services. Now, Square continues to grow to offer a wide range of services to business owners. 

A time of economic turbulence doesn't mean that you should decrease your ad spend. In fact, continuing to advertise during times of economic turbulence can ultimately prove incredibly advantageous for your business. 

Businesses that continue to market themselves through unprecedented times often see increased profits and brand awareness when the economy starts to open back up again. When considering how to navigate this time, think of how you can best position your business to serve your community now so that you’re able to be there for them later on. 

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