The innovative will survive

I write in response to “The good, the bad and the recession”, Tony Bond’s letter on the subject of marketing or innovation budgets, which to cut in times of recession? (MW last week)

I’ve just come out of a contingency meeting. Why did The Research Business International (RBI) have one? You know the sort of thing – it’s worried that its customers are cutting back of course.

Why are they doing this? Because many of them operate in consumer markets that are already depressed or they’re anticipating the downturn. RBI’s advice to them follows the standard pattern: don’t stop advertising and, above all, don’t even think about cutting back on the marketing support you put behind your core brand assets – we all know that it’s the big and strong who survive these market hiccups.

Is RBI intending to pursue this strategy itself? Well maybe. Its trouble is that most of the suggestions offered in the contingency meeting fell into one of the following categories: downsize, cut back on marketing spend, put pressure on suppliers and put a halt to the office refurbishment programme intended to foster creativity, staff retention and a willingness to turn up at the office on a Monday morning. Heard it all before in your contingency meetings? Well probably.

But aren’t we all overlooking an important occurrence that’s also common to times of recession? This is that consumers adapt their buying behaviour when times are tough and many of them also adopt the products and services developed to meet their circumstances. What happens when the money starts rolling in again – do they revert to their old behaviour and pre-recession brands or do they, yet again, adapt their behaviour and stick with their new-found brand buddies?

Might I suggest that it’s this market phenomenon that means that it’s the bold and the innovative that also survive, which might be a better option for those of us who haven’t the resources or conviction to be amongst the big and strong.

Mick Williamson

Creative director

The Research Business International, London WC1

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