Albert Amekudzi’s thoughts … Cutting advertising budgets in times of crisis

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A suicide mission or cost-saving mechanism?

The robust plans drawn up by many governments and organisations have been disrupted following the emergence of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) within the first quarter of this year. Obviously, many organisations including governments never saw it coming – hence failing to plan toward addressing it and taking advantage of the opportunities it also presents.

Government budgets have taken a different direction due to efforts for finding additional resources to address the havoc being caused by the pandemic. Additionally, many businesses have had to realign their budgets for the year due to restrictions on movements imposed in many countries to help reduce spread of the virus.

All these actions have affected the revenue flows of businesses as well as governments. Some organisations have either stopped or reduced marketing or advertising activities as a way of saving money. Some even think that advertising during these times is an exercise in futility.

Opportunities in the Midst of Crisis

It is worth noting that as in every situation that arises, in the midst of every crisis there is an opportunity for anyone who strategically positions him/herself to excel. For now, let us focus on marketing communication in times of crisis.

With sales and ultimately revenue of some businesses dropping in times of global crisis, companies take many decisions – including stopping promotions – to save money. But on the other hand, there are those who also use the crisis situation to stay ahead of competition by engaging in content-driven strategy. When the crisis ends and businesses start picking up, those who are investing in marketing communications will be far ahead of the competition.

As COVID-19 rages through many countries, disrupting economic activities, digital platforms are now more advantageous in promoting brands. But this can only be impactful with an effective content marketing strategy.

Digital Economy

From data as at April 2020, about 60% of the world’s population use the Internet. In Ghana, over 14 million people use the Internet with, close to 40 million mobile telephony connections. Additionally, Internet users spend over six hours a day online. A cursory review of these basic figures indicate that more people are moving online. Also, with the rules of social distancing and other World Health Organisation precautionary measures, the digital economy has more leverage to grow faster than previously expected.

It is therefore important for companies to take a sniper’s look at leveraging the digital economy to start positioning their brands for a rapid take-off. But this can only be achieved with a quality-content marketing strategy.

Developing a quality-content marketing strategy requires engaging the services of experienced marketers and advertisers, hence this period of crisis requires that companies engage professionals to start working on this to give them an edge when the pandemic ends.

Suicide Mission or Cost Saving?

Using the COVID-19 crisis to cut marketing budgets to save money is like embarking on a suicide mission. Brands need to leverage the situation and build strong brand-affinity, and promote their content on key digital platforms.

Hiding and trying to save money in these times not only creates brand apathy, but also reduces the brand’s popularity as well as its relevance. Companies need to stand up to the challenge and show much relevance in bad times, even more than they would do in good times.

While some researchers suggest that advertising generates lower accounting and stock market returns, others like Chauvin and Hirschey (1993) demonstrated that advertising expenses have a positive impact on the company’s market value.

American industrialist and business magnate Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company, said: “A man who stops advertising to save money is like a man who stops a clock to save time”. Basically, advertising is an integral part of a successful business even in times of crisis.

These times of crisis provide great opportunities for brands to take their marketing and advertising activities to a higher level with relevant content.

Way Forward

In every crisis situation there is an opportunity for everyone, but only the smart business people can see and take advantage of it. One of such opportunities is to appreciate the value of communication within the difficult times and stay ahead of competition.

Strategic, relevant and timely communication with your target-audience helps the organisation stay in touch with its public, as well as show relevance during both the good and bad times. Organisations therefore need to ensure consistent communication at all times.

Cutting advertising or marketing budgets in difficult times has the potential of eroding gains made by the organization, because competitors are always on the look-out to occupy every little space and gain maximum attention – hence the need to be consistent even in difficult times.

The writer is the Public Relations and Events Manager at Origin8, an Advertising, Marketing and Public Relations Firm in Ghana.

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