There are many things I enjoy while visiting the U.S., but as a Canadian, one of my favourite things south of the border is Trader Joe’s.
I’ll cross the border simply to do a grocery run at the beloved retail chain, which was launched in 1967 by Joseph Hardin Coulombe.
Trader Joe’s has more than 500 stores across the U.S—growing immensely from its humble beginning as a single store in California.
Part of the retailer’s success lies in its marketing strategy, which involves the use of consumer-generated marketing. Trader Joe’s has no online presence, it has no loyalty rewards program, and no sales.
What it does have is a loyal following of consumers. These consumers talk online about recipes and unique items they love from the retailer, giving Trader Joe’s a deluge of organic marketing content.
All of this is uninvited content that fans of Trader Joe’s produce on their own accord.
But other companies are inviting customers to play a more intentional role in developing brand messages and shaping products.
Starbucks in one example of this. The ubiquitous coffee chain has the My Starbucks Idea platform, where it collects ideas from customers for new products. It’s led to the creation of Cake Pops, the Hazelnut Macchiato and free Wi-Fi we’ve all come to love at Starbucks.
Other companies are also using consumer-generated marketing in their strategies, including PepsiCo, Southwest Airlines, MasterCard, Unilever, H.J. Heinz and Harley-Davidson.
But while consumer-generated marketing can help brands, it can also become tedious when not done right.
For example, Heinz Ketchup once invited consumers to submit homemade ads for its ketchup on its YouTube page. That led to more than 8,000 entries—the majority of which were bad.
Opening the flood gates to user-generated content might not be the best idea, but the potential in this strategy remains, especially now that we live in an era where consumers are individual content creators.
Is your company amplifying its brand through use-generated content? If not, it might be a good time to tap into the potential this strategy offers your organization.
Many of us have been here before.
The whispers of the dreaded R word begin to get louder. Organizations start to tighten their belts. Panic pulses through the global stock exchanges, and the self-fulfilling prophecy of a recession becomes our reality.
Right now, we’re primarily seeing the tech industry get hit hard by job losses.
My personal litmus test for a recession, however, is the Walmart parking lot near me. It’s almost always jammed. But if I notice it become sparse over the coming months, it’s a sure sign of the times.
We’re not there yet. And hopefully we won’t get there. In the meantime, it has got me thinking about the importance of how companies manage their brands, especially as consumers and other businesses begin to count their costs with more scrutiny.
Should brands that are up and coming—or organizations that are currently rebranding themselves—cut back on content budgets as they prepare for a possible recession? If you’re in it for the long haul, don’t. Here’s why.
Content Marketing Is A Long-Term Game
Like your mutual funds, content marketing is something you invest in for the long haul. It might be tempting to put content marketing efforts on the chopping block at the first sign of economic uncertainty, but it’s probably not the best idea for your organization.
The editorial calendars from several months back—and even years—are now bearing their proverbial fruit for your organization. Imagine then for a second that you cut your content efforts for the foreseeable future. This will impact your organization’s potential for gathering inbound leaders once the potential recession passes. Meanwhile, businesses that remain committed to their content strategies during down times have the potential to funnel in more leads once the recession is over.
Nevertheless, become more intentional with your content marketing efforts. Recognize that the needs of your audiences, whether consumers or other businesses, have shifted due to the dreaded R word. Plan content with care. And see the fruit in the years to come once this uncertainty passes.
Cutting Content Marketing Efforts Might Be More Costly Than You Think
There’s a great adage that says, “when times are good you should advertise, when times are bad you must advertise.”
The same holds true for content marketing. During recessions, many organizations cut back on marketing budgets, which in turn shrinks their share of voice—a gauge for brand visibility. That subsequently shrinks your voice in the industry.
But recessions are a great time to take advantage of growing your share of voice as others in the industry cut theirs as a knee-jerk reaction.
Let’s look at two large cereal brands as examples, specifically Kellogg’s and Post, to illustrate this point. Back in the roaring 1920s, Post was the bigwig in the world of cereal with the largest market share. Then came the Great Depression.
Post cut back on its marketing and advertising budget, while its rival, Kellogg’s, doubled its promo spending, primarily in radio. It also released a new cereal at the time called Rice Krispies—the one known for its “snap, crackle, pop” jingle. Kellogg’s profit grew by 30 percent and the company has since been the category leader.
This example illustrates the lasting impact of cutting your ad and marketing spend amid a recession. Content marketing—and marketing in general—is a long-term game.
Cutting it can have a lasting impact that haunts your brand. So, if you’re beginning to batten down the hatches for a potential recession, think about the long-term plan for your brand before making any short-term decisions.
I help companies grow by telling their stories.