Economic forecast is gloomy but marketers need to be bold

Anyone that picked up a newspaper last Wednesday would have experienced a sense of déjà vu.

The Independent described a gathering economic storm, while The Guardian talked ominously of “depression fears”.

The sort of language, in fact, not used since the bleak winter of 2008/09 amid the worst of financial crisis and the subsequent slump into recession.

The reason for such gloom? Take your pick from this smorgasbord of portent. The Bank of England lowered its growth forecast for next year, Nationwide’s consumer confidence hit an 18-month low and fear of food inflation intensified.

It’s not just the weather that’s turned this week. Business and consumer optimism, so fragile for so long, took a knock.

But this is not the time for direct marketers to beat a hasty retreat back behind the barricades they built two years ago.

Talk of the economy slipping backward could in turn put the spotlight back on marketing budgets.

Direct marketers, so adept at fighting their corner, need to continue talking up the channel and its worth to ensure that they retain their slice of available marketing funds.

Media owners too, need to keep focus. We need to see more of the same from Royal Mail, which last week offered discounts for those using or thinking about using mail.

The channel is cheap, accountable, and effective. The Direct Marketing Association estimated this week that DM generates £205 billion of sales in the UK every year.

Evidence suggests that companies are holding their nerve. A survey of 73 direct, digital and sales promotion agencies by the Marketing Agencies Association Barometer last week found 87% confident that client budgets will stay the same or increase in the third quarter.

Consumers are uneasy. They are already worried about job security and anxious over rising shopping bills and this before VAT increases to 20% in January.

But this is time for boldness and brand building and not a time to batten down the hatches through fear of an economic slump that might not happen.

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