Economic slumps are bound to happen from time to time. Looking back at the past few decades we can remember the “Great Recession” and the housing market crash of 2008, or the deep economic downturn after September 11th, 2001. While we never look forward to a recession, from a marketing perspective, these challenging months become a rare opportunity to connect with our target markets and send a positive message to prospective customers.

Whether your business is B2B or B2C, your marketing message during difficult times should shift towards a tone of community involvement, to create an ongoing dialogue between your customers and staff.

This article is the first of two. Here, we’ll explain why recessions become the perfect time to double-down on your marketing efforts and explore ways your marketing message must change. For part two, we’ve developed a guide of actionable ideas you can take to move forward with, right now.

First, let’s acknowledge that:

  • Know that during a recession, your marketing tactics and strategies will change.
  • Your message must be dynamic and fluid, and you’ll need to move quickly.

Before we get into any of that, let’s have a quick refresher about marketing strategies and tactics during recessions.

Marketing Strategies v. Marketing Tactics During Economic Contractions

We’ve touched on this with other marketing blogs. Marketing strategies are the primary goals you’ll be working towards with your advertising. Recession goals very likely be different from your “good times” goals. For instance, in 2019 when the economy was booming, you may have focused on increasing the size of orders customers were placing or creating a wider profit margin. Now in 2020, you’ll be looking to solidify your relationships with customers.

Tactics are the specific actions your organization was taking to achieve your goals. There are thousands of marketing tactics, but yours might have been:

Naturally, when your marketing strategies change, many of your tactics will need to be adjusted. So the question quickly becomes: What messages matter most during a recession? And how can we spread that message soon?

Marketing During a Recession — Recognize Changes in Consumer Behavior Proactively 

During the last economic contraction in 2009, McKinsey research found that “in any given category, an average of 18 percent of consumer-packaged-goods customers bought lower-priced brands… Of the consumers who switched to cheaper products, 46 percent said they performed better than expected, and the large majority of these consumers said the performance of such products was much better than expected. As a result, 34 percent of the switchers said they no longer preferred higher-priced products.”

  • Those same studies found an additional 41 percent said that they still preferred the premium brand, but no longer felt it was worth a higher price.

As we can imagine, changes in consumer behavior that affect B2C sellers ultimately lead to changes in the B2B realm. When end-users stop choosing specifically top-shelf brands, providers of raw materials or packaging feel the shift.

Consumers don’t stop buying when a recession strikesbut they do change buying behaviors.

To put a finer point on it:

  • They are far slower to make significant purchases — cars, homes, appliances, and the like.
  • They’ll spend more time using technology to research first-time purchases — and first-time providers — even if these aren’t significant buys.
  • Consumers may switch from more prestigious or costly brands to more economical versions of the items they deem essential.
  • Hoarding is an example of unusual behavior that may rear its head among consumers during a recession. In these instances, consumers won’t care what level product they’re purchasing, as long as they’re buying enough of it.

It becomes a balancing act for marketing professionals. You may find yourself asking: “How can we attract new business and keep margins healthy while competing with economy brands?”

 But you’re asking the wrong question!

Your goal during an economic contraction should be to encourage brand awareness and promote a sense of community among your customers, centered around the brand. Your questions should read more like:

  • How can I use my product/service to bring customers together?
  • Do I have platforms in place to promote a sense of community among my customers?
  • How can my brand provide a memorable service during a time of upheaval?
  • What can we do to make customers feel this product is healthy and safe?
  • Is my company behaving in socially responsible ways that will be remembered later?
  • How can I add value to my high-end products to prevent cautious buyers from switching brands?

The Slippery Slope of Price-based Marketing

Understand that price-based selling (advertising your product as the most affordable option) is a decision you’ll never be able to come back from, once it’s made.

If your message has always been centered around being the cheapest choice, that’s one thing. But don’t go looking to change your entire reputation from a luxury brand to an economical one during a recession.

  • Once you drop the prestige level, it’s nearly impossible to come back up.
  • You’ll also lose dedicated luxury-level customers.

Value-based marketing can be worthwhile during a recession, but your new marketing strategies and tactics mustn’t appear too opportunistic. You risk losing your entire customer base.

Instead, find ways to add value to your products to keep them competitive with lower-priced brands, and focus on customer loyalty.

For instance, let’s imagine you sell high-end shampoos and bath goods. You sell B2C on your website and B2B to salons and spas. Due to the COVID-19 recession, sales are down by 60%.

  • If you were to drop prices down to “economy” brand levels and push into discount department store retails space, you’re looking for a piece of market share that’s already seriously competitive.
  • Furthermore, your current customers will question the move — did you change your formula? Is this product as good as it once was?
  • Once you drop your price and placement, your luxury-level customers will either start purchasing a different luxury-level brand OR consider trying all the other products in the economy shelves. Either way, you’ve lost them for a slimmer margin on a more competitive shelf.

You’re far better off creating value promotions and encouraging customer dialogue with technology. For instance, sell your luxury shampoo at the same price but include a free bottle of bubble bath product for your customers to try. Ask them to review the product on your website or forum, and offer them a significant coupon or gift certificate for doing so. Remember, you don’t want to lose prestige or lower your future margins, but you can get them interested in a new product.

Marketing during a recession becomes all about building your relationships with users. To that end, let’s talk about the right kinds of messages that consumers want to hear.

Sending the Right Message with Your Marketing Efforts

American consumers want to feel healthy and safe during times of economic instability. A focus on family health or personal wellness is ideal, as are concepts of community and togetherness. Messages of financial security or easing your customers’ concerns about their ability to pay bills are incredibly meaningful during these times.

As you see, your marketing strategies become less about increasing order size, and more focused on supporting your customers emotionally – even financially! This is your turn to give back in whatever way is appropriate for your organization.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this article, it’s a bit longer than what we usually write. Stay tuned for Part II, where we’ll provide you with an actionable guide for recession marketing, and explain ways you can build community involvement around your brand.

The Great Depression was a troubled time in US history. Poverty, unemployment, and supply rationing defined the times. Some US businesses failed the test, while others weathered the storm – and eventually came out ahead – with either increased market share or a reliable reputation.

While our purpose here isn’t to dissect the political and historical reasons for the depression, it’s essential to recognize the financial climate during those times. In sum, the national income dropped roughly 60% in a matter of a few years – from $87.8 billion in 1929 to $75.7 billion in 1930 to just $42.5 billion in 1932.

Advertising During the Great Depression at a Glance

As the economy tanked, advertising became more important and a lot shadier.

  • Advertisers of the day struggled to find effective marketing strategies.
  • Many launched into a frantic battle of ferocious competition and fear-mongering, as they sought to win US consumers dwindling dollars.
  • Let’s not forget there was little regulation of “truth in advertising” at the time, so back-biting competitors were likely to make unrealistic claims or even tell blatant lies to the public with their marketing.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) did exist, and an energetic truth in advertising campaign was in the works. But it was a young organization, and communications needed to be made mostly by US mail, phone calls and wire. The FTC’s response to complaints was naturally much slower than today.

Print advertising reigned. Radio was blossoming. It was a slippery, shady time for advertisers.

But not for Cadillac.

Cadillac Built Their Legendary Luxury Image During the Great Depression

Throughout the Thirties, Cadillac built its brand by manufacturing and marketing the most exclusive luxury vehicles available on the market. Cadillac already had a reputation for luxury and technology, thanks to their innovations like the first electric start ignition and the first enclosed cabin and continued to build on tech advancements, driver comfort, performance, and luxury. They were forced to scale back production but never dropped their prices. Nor did they make any sacrifices in the quality or performance departments.

  • While competitors like Packard made-do by producing median cost vehicles for the average consumer, Cadillac produced significantly smaller numbers of extraordinary cars.

“Foremost among them was that magnificent 1930 surprise, the Sixteen, carrying an overhead-valve, 452-cubic-inch V-16 engine producing 165 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque. Horsepower was increased to 185 in 1934,” according to the auto editors of Consumers Guide.

Let’s not forget, these vehicles came at premium costs – ranging from about $5,000 to $10,000 – the kind of money folks could spend on a new house! It was a time when the average working family couldn’t afford a second vehicle, much less a luxury vehicle worth more than their home. Only the most affluent, the upper-crust, could dare to own them.

Their print advertising was elegant, simple and never felt rushed.

Was it All in the Advertising?

Today, we can speculate that one of the reasons Cadillac held on to the luxury auto audience was that it was a member of the GM family, with other makes and models to fill in the gaps in their bottom line from time to time. And that might – or might not – be true.

The fact remains that an unbending dedication to luxury vehicles branded the company, for generations to come, as the very best. Cadillac didn’t deign to compete for the average working income but waited for the truly wealthy to approach. Decades passed before Cadillac began offering more economical options, but they were still among the highest-priced and most respected vehicles on the road.

Our Role

Here at Onstage, our primary mission is to provide luxury program books, and digital signage for the performing artsOur audience is wealthy and well educated, and sometimes thrifty. They recognize the value of private education, higher learning, and the reputation of quality brands. Want to learn more about marketing to an affluent audience? Reach out to our branding experts today!

Related Reading & Resources:

Influence of Advertising During the Great Depression

FTC: Truth in Advertising

Have no doubt that global, national, and even local level catastrophes should have a profound effect on your marketing thinking. But in different ways than you probably think!

For twenty years, Onstage has been providing luxury-level advertising across the US. We’ve been here through US tragedies and crises like the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, the Housing Market & Stock Market Crash of 2008 and widespread weather crises like the 2015 – 2016 Winter Storm Goliath, to name a few.

Yes, your advertising during a crisis needs to be thoughtful. A genuine crisis may even be cause for a total re-brand. But if you learn one thing from the internet today, let it be this: don’t pull your ad budget during a crisis. Now is the time to go all in. But let’s pause that thought for a moment, and take a look at marketing messages as they related to the current novel Coronavirus situation in the US.

Kentucky Fried Chicken Pulls “Finger-Lickin’ Good” Ads During 2020 Coronavirus Pandemic

KFC pulled advertising that encouraged finger-licking as of 3/12/2020 – and that makes good sense! US consumers are hyper-aware of hygiene, hand washing, and sterilization. Nothing would be a bigger turn-off to consumers right now than the idea of licking their fingers. We’ll call this the “Eww factor.”

We’re marketing masters at Onstage, not doctors. So we’re not here to talk about fatality rates or communicability of COVD-19. What matters to us is that US consumers are behaving in a remarkably different way. And while news media likes to tout this as “the new normal,” we’ve been around this block enough to believe strongly that things will settle back down in a month or two.

Which means that savvy marketing professionals are:

  • Reviewing their campaigns to pull anything that could give consumers the “Eww factor.”
  • Doubling-down on messages relating to health, safety, cleanliness, hygiene, insurance, etc.
  • Jumping in fast when advertising sales reps call with special prices and deals.

The past few years have been excellent for US businesses, and we’ve blogged about that a lot. We’re thrilled that so many small businesses have sprung up! However, young organizations and inexperienced marketing staff might not realize just how “low it can go” and how challenging it can be to do business during a wobbly economy and unusual consumer behavior.

In an effort to maintain their bottom line, many of these young businesses will pull their ad budget in part or in whole. And that will be a fatal mistake.

As Hard As It Sounds, Now is the Time to Boost Your Marketing Budget

Young organizations that reduce their marketing budgets during a crisis are very likely to fail. The Harvard Business Review (HBR) published some excellent reading on the topic, back in 2009, right after the housing market crash. Those were tough years for business.

  • We’ll summarize HBR’s research to say that during an economic downturn, all segments become more selective about their spending. No major revelations there!
  • The businesses that ride out the storm are the ones who adjust their message accordingly and PUSH IT, while their competitors shrink back into the shadows.

We realize that budgeting can be tough during a slowdown, especially this early in the year. It probably feels like you were just getting comfortable with your 2020 goals and budgets.

Your Advertising Budget is the Last Place to Cut Funds During a Crisis

If your business is going to survive a genuine crisis, you need to look at every little nook and cranny for cutting back. Inexperienced marketers may think their marketing budget is a no-brainer, but that thinking will be their fatal error. Tightening up cost-cutting in other areas so that your marketing budget gets impacted as little as possible will make your company come out of any crisis stronger. Marketing during a crisis becomes the defining moment for businesses.

We’re All In This Together

Remember, we’re all in this together! There is a ton of advice, news, blog posts, social posts, etc. out there that will drive anyone crazy and make anyone think the world if coming to an end. Obviously, our advice is easier said than done. But if you truly believe in the American way, we will get through this crisis just as we have every other crisis before!

We appreciate that you’ve taken the time to read our marketing blogs during these interesting times. We certainly enjoy writing them. If you’d like to learn more about re-branding during a crisis, or advertising to the most affluent of consumers, reach out to us today! We’d love to hear from you.

Related Reading & Resources:

Campaign US: Advertising is in Crisis, But it’s Not Because it Doesn’t Work

The Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra is All About Diversity

Our program book publishing clients at Onstage comes from all over the nation! We love to be part of their vision of diversity. One of our most culturally diverse customers must be The Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, a group of outstanding performance artists who are dedicated to bringing joy to the central Florida region in the form of enriched music and performances.

The “Orlando Phil” has it all!

Each of our program book customers brings unique talent and vision to the modern performing arts world. The Orlando Phil provides more than 150 concerts to the Orlando area, and venues ranging from parks and schools to traditional auditoriums.

  • Classical concerts & pre-concert lectures for ticket-holders
  • Educational programs & youth programs
  • Community involvement
  • Cuban and Latino cultural programming
  • Performances in all price ranges, even free!
  • Performances by visiting musicians

We appreciate all the musicians and the dedicated administrative staff that make these events happen!

About the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra

The Orlando Phil is growing! Next year will be their 27th Season.

This 2019 – 2020 fall-winter season is chock full of concerts; with such a wide variety of performances, we almost don’t know where to begin!

The Fairwinds Classics Series of concerts will all be held at the Bob Carr Theater and include

  • Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony– October 26, 2019, at 8 pm. The orchestra will perform the most iconic piece of classical music in human history.
  • The Sounds of Revolution, Freedom and Joy– February 1, 2020, at 8 pm. Soloists Colleen Blagov and guest Jeremy Kittel perform themes from the American Civil and Revolutionary Wars. The evening will close dramatically with a performance of Shostakovich’s Sixth Symphony.
  • American Rhapsody– March 21, 2020, at 8 pm. A night of American composers, featuring Gershwin’s jazzy Rhapsody in Blue, which has enchanted American audiences since 1924.

A Note on Administrative Staff & Volunteers

While this blog series focuses mostly on venues and artists, we need to tip our hats to the administrative staff and volunteers associated with the Orlando Phil. As marketing professionals and business people, we understand the values and constraints of budgets.

Have you ever put together a big event, like a wedding? You know the amount of time and preparation it takes. Now imagine hosting 125 – 150 big events every year! We must point out that the Orlando Philharmonic’s administration must be doing it right because they are one of the few American orchestras that have balanced their budget every single year of their existence! That’s a major accomplishment!

Would we like to take a little crumb of credit for their success as partners who provide outstanding publication of their luxury program books? We would! At Onstage Publications we do more than publish luxury program books for clients. We help organizations stay on-tasks by removing the stress and busywork of quality program book production.

About Music Director Mr. Eric Jacobsen

According to the Orlando Phil website Mr. Jacobsen is nearing his fifth year as Music Director for the Orlando Phil. In 2016 he stepped down from his position as cellist of the string quartet Brooklyn Rider, to focus on his position as conductor and Music Director.

His vision launched a new trend in community engagement with his creative and diverse programming; intending to engage a broader audience, and the entire community is grateful!

The New York Times calls him “an interpretive dynamo”! He has a reputation for innovative presentations and collaborative works, and is probably known most for his skill at engaging an audience.

You Know that Audience Engagement is the Key to Experiential Marketing

Our specialty is experiential marketing. We get excited about music directors and orchestras who involve the audience and leave them feeling like they were a part of the concert.

We are experts at getting your brand in front of affluent, involved audiences all around the nation with luxury program books, digital signage at venues and our direct mail program Artspac. Would you like to learn more about marketing to this coveted opt-in mailing list? Contact us today!

Today’s marketing avenues are changing. When you want to draw more business into your restaurant, you have to get creative with your marketing approach. If you’re advertising where everyone else is, such as Facebook or other social media platforms, your message is getting lost.

It pays to think outside of the box, which is all the more reason to know who your target audience is. Consider your location and the type of demographic that you’re trying to appeal to. You want people who have extra money to spend, not the people who are pinching pennies and can’t afford to eat out.

Market to Patrons of the Performing Arts

Those who have money to spend on the performing arts have the money to eat out. They recognize the importance of eating out and the entire atmosphere that goes with it. As such, considering changing some of your marketing campaigns to make sure that you’re marketing to this audience is always a win-win.

Granted, you could get creative with the way that your Facebook ads find people. However, you’re missing out on the people who aren’t on social media. Some people don’t have the time to check their statuses and read through the seemingly endless number of posts in their timeline.

A better strategy is to bring your restaurant advertisements directly to the source. Get your ads in front of people who matter.

Your restaurant ad can be printed in the program books that are distributed to everyone at the beginning of a performance. As they browse through it to find out who the performers are, they’ll also see various business advertisements. Because you’re perceived as supporting one of their favorite things, they’ll be more inclined to support you, too.

You can also explore venue digital signage. This allows you to have a visual way of showing off all of the excellent food and service that you’re known for. By placing photos and videos that can be displayed in the theatres and the other performing arts venues, your restaurant will stand out. While patrons are milling in to see the performance, they’ll see your ad on these digital signs. Make their mouth’s water and when the performance ends, they may be hungry enough to make a bee-line right to your restaurant.

In addition to both the printed program books and venue digital signage, riding along with the direct mail of specific performing arts venues is another way to get in front of this demographic. Make an enticing enough offer on this direct mail piece and your restaurant will have just as much of a packed house as the theatre they are coming from.

Get Creative

The reality is that you have to be more creative about marketing than the restaurants you’re in competition with. If you duplicate the efforts that everyone else is doing, you’re going to have minimal results, and your restaurant will be lost in the clutter. You need to be creative with where you put your advertising – and performing arts advertising can be an excellent place for you to do this.

Your marketing campaign should never rely on one form of marketing. Not everyone will be on social media. Not everyone will read the performing arts program books. Not everyone will remember what they see on a digital screen. However, when you have your marketing messages located prominently in many places, people will start to establish brand recognition. They’ll remember seeing you in a few different places – and that’s when you know that your marketing efforts are working.

Word of mouth marketing simply isn’t effective any longer. Many people forget what they heard before they have a chance to tell someone. It’s not that people are becoming more forgetful, though. It’s because people are becoming victims of information overload.

When you want your restaurant to stand out from the clutter and advertise in a new and exciting way, contact us at Onstage Publications. We’re here to show you that the patrons of the performing arts have money to spend – and if you advertise correctly, they can be spending it at your restaurant.

Thank you to everyone that participated in Onstage’s “We’ll Pay for Your Trip to Nashville” contest.

For those of you not familiar with our most recent contest, we emailed all the participants prior to this year’s League of American Orchestra’s conference held in Nashville, TN for the chance to enter their name in the hat for Onstage to pick up their trip’s tab. All they had to do was complete our quick program book questionnaire and they were entered (see the official email below.)


We were inundated, to say the least, but we now have a winner. That lucky person is Lacey Huszcza, Executive Director of the Las Vegas Philharmonic.

Congratulations Lacey! And for all the rest of you, as always, Onstage will help you concentrate your efforts on your performance, and we’ll pay you for it! So stop wasting your precious time and money on trying to publish your own program books. Call Norm today!

A few of our satisfied clients.

Engage with the engagement experts.

Send us a quick email with your questions and contact info.

Schedule a time to talk with Norm about how Onstage can help your Performing Arts Organization.

Use our program book calculator to find out how much we can save you.