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.

Nearly every US business has been affected by the Coronavirus. We’ve touched on this with another recent blog – where we noted that successful advertisers are changing their marketing messages nationwide in response to the COVID-19 situation.

Here, we’ll take a closer look at the changes being made by the most experienced marketing professionals, and the operational changes happening at the most influential organizations. As always, feel free to reach out to our branding experts at Onstage if you’d like to learn more.

Company Actions Are the Best Advertising – Let’s Focus on Health, Safety, and Community Goodwill

You may have noticed that we write about auto brands regularly in our blogs, and dominant fast food chains too. That’s because these industries have astonishing advertising budgets, brilliant marketing teams, and nationwide (or global) presence.

  • They employ the world’s marketing masters by the hundreds, providing observers with many thousands of years of combined marketing experience.

One thing these American marketing gurus always do during troubling times is to solidify their message of family, safety and patriotic community.

General Motors Response

General Motors (GM) is a longstanding – even historic – American brand we’re sure you know. Setting auto sales entirely aside for the moment, they have committed to manufacture 1.5 million masks and 10,000 much-needed ventilators monthly to combat the Coronavirus pandemic.

  • Addressing the global shortage of personal protective equipment(PPE) further, GM has tasked it’s massive global procurement departments to find more PPE and more supplies.
  • They’ve also provided free OnStar Crisis assistance to current GM vehicle owners for the time being.

We realize that not every organization has the resources or scope of GM. Still, their actions can be a positive motivator for all of us in business, and a proud example for the American public. We’re all cheering for them!

Ford’s Response to No March Madness

Ford had a peppy campaign planned for it’s usual March Madness (basketball tournament) advertising this season. But the tournament’s been canceled due to COVID-19.

The current cultural climate in the US wouldn’t accept lighthearted advertising. Ford has replaced those peppy commercials with financial relief awareness, as they offer temporary relief of loan payments for Ford owners.

Some of Ford’s new taglines are:

  • Built Ford Proud
  • Built for Right Now
  • Built to Lend a Hand

Again, we must point out, the businesses that come through COVID-19 best will make efforts to manage their marketing campaigns dynamically, never pulling them.

Some Good News: Many American Businesses Are Flourishing

This blog says it well: “some companies have seen soaring growth due to COVID-19. The publicly traded video conferencing platform Zoom… has seen its stock rise, as have delivery services as most Americans try to ‘shelter in place.'”

  • Some larger organizations – like pet-products supplier Chewy, and meal kit company Blue Apron, have been blindsided by surging sales over the past weeks.
  • A tremendous boost in online shopping an eCommerce sales may continue, as a home-bound audience expects a significant stimulus check.

Ultimately, the advertising landscape is changing rapidly, and supply chains are stressed, which leads us to our final point.

Advertisers Should Seek to Build Their Brand – Not Move Specific Products

Throughout the past decade’s we’ve occasionally experienced supply chain struggles, though nothing like what we’re coping with today. Around the globe:

  • ships are stuck at sea
  • containers are sitting untouched
  • freight and logistics companies are overwhelmed
  • raw materials, plants and workers are being diverted for medical device manufacturing

It would be a mistake to market specific products that cannot be immediately replenished. Even long-time customers will turn to your competitors for products they ordered but never received. It’s better to be upfront about stocking struggles and provide a positive message of health and safety.

Here at Onstage, our products are luxury-level advertising media like program books for the performing arts, and digital signage at luxury venues. Contact us to talk more about how companies are changing their focus for COVID-19, or leave a comment below. We’d love to hear from you!

Related Reading & Resources: How Companies Are Changing Track to Fight COVID-19 Coronavirus Small Business Guide Blog: Advertising Vs Coronavirus: Part One – Ad Tech The Advertising Industry Must Act Now to Combat the Coronavirus


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

As performing arts marketing professionals with amazing venues across the nation, we work with thousands of advertisers. As marketing evolves year after year, we must stay on top of the latest advertising trends and provide those insights to our clients. Our goal is to be more than just your resource for performing arts program book advertising, but also your go-to blog for any new, relevant marketing insight.

With that goal in mind, we’d like to make you aware of some modern sales support tools and marketing materials, beyond our products, that can be leveraged well with luxury event advertising at performing arts events, along with the tried and true classics that still work today.

Sales Support Tools & Marketing Collateral Defined

Sales support tools are items or technology your sales reps use as tools to help make a sale. Every organization is unique, but see them as:

  • printed catalogs
  • flyers & handouts
  • client testimonials
  • and anything sales staff uses to explain your product to a potential customer

Marketing Collateral is much the same. It expands past your sales rep’s efforts with a client. Before, during and after a sale, marketing collateral might come in the form of:

  • program book advertising
  • opt-in emails
  • direct mail campaigns (like Artspac, our direct mail program for performing arts fans)
  • out of home advertising (like performing arts venue digital signage)
  • customer satisfaction surveys
  • websites, reviews, blogs
  • social media posts
  • anything that supports your brand to the customer

For example, you receive an invitation to a seminar to talk about a timeshare. That’s marketing collateral. You attend the workshop, where a sales rep provides you with brochures, those are sales support tools. A week after the presentation, you receive a postcard asking about your experience. That’s marketing collateral again.

The point we’re making is that these marketing tools work wonderfully together!

Marketing Tools “To – Do” List for 2020

  1. Focus on Content Marketing / Blogs– We think Robert Kataisays it well “Content marketing is one of the most effective marketing collaterals. It’s good for awareness, for influence, and to spread the word on your products and / or services.” In our tech-savvy era, consumers are continually seeking information about the products and the services they use, or those they would like to try.
  • Blog posts, paired with a solid SEO campaign, can reach a vast audience.
  • In terms of Return on Marketing Investment(ROMI), blogs, web content, and the resulting SEO benefits may be the best marketing investment you’ll ever make.
  • Unique, quality content will be appropriate for years to come.
  • In addition to reinforcing your brand to potential customers, blogs give consumers a chance to get to know your business and your values.
  1. Create Brochures– Contrary to what you might have read in recent years print is NOT dead. Consumers have indeed moved away from printed newspapers and magazine subscriptions. But high-quality brochures are a different animal.
  • Like our luxury program books, quality brochures are durable and kept to be reviewed many times.
  • The key is to provide just enough problem-solving information on a brochure.
  • Don’t overwhelm the audience with too much information or marketing noise.

If you’re already using brochures in your marketing mix, that’s terrific! 2020 is the perfect year to give them a facelift, and a push with related digital signage and program book advertising.

  1. Reinvent Your Tradeshow Trinkets – We’re using this category to lump together all the little trinkets you might use as collateral marketing materials. Think of them as:
  • pens
  • notepads
  • coffee mugs
  • refrigerator magnets

All the trinkets a business might make to distribute at a trade show, music festival, or experiential marketing opportunity fall in this category.

This year, reinvent your trinkets. Offer a more valuable novelty that will be kept and used by the customer, and use it to drive customers to your website.

Avoid cheesy trinkets! Modern consumers have little use for clickers, laser light key chains, or coin purses. Your marketing money will be better spent on quality, meaningful goods that your customers will have a use for.

Here at Onstage, our products are digital signage at performing arts venues, luxury-level program books, and our direct mailer, Artspac. We’d love to work hand-in-hand with your marketing department to develop a program book advertising campaign that works with the sales support and marketing collateral you’re using in 2020. So get in touch with us today!

Big Data sounds intimidating to us marketers. We’re advertising experts, not software programmers, right? But don’t be afraid of that nasty data term. Big Data is not just a buzzword. As a modern marketing professional, this is the information you need to know.

In a nutshell, Big Data refers to the ever-growing amounts of information you can use to monitor your brand and your marketing department’s performance, all while keeping a finger on customer experience.

Big Data can be complex, but you might be able to manage it in-house (if not, there is software available). To determine how much data you’re dealing with, we break Big Data down into two types of information:

  • structured data
  • and unstructured data

What is Structured Data?

Structured data is information maintained inside your business. Practically anything you keep on a spreadsheet or in a filing cabinet falls into this category:

  • sales spreadsheets
  • purchase orders
  • calendars
  • old sales forecasts
  • financials

Structured data is solid evidence of your company’s performance. The benefit of structured data is that it is easily searchable and patterns come clear quickly.

  • The point of using software to analyze your structured data is to find patterns you may be missing regarding your best sales days/products/markets.
  • We can make multiple comparisons with software.
  • You can find out where most of your customers are coming from, what they’re spending, and which advertising campaigns they reacted to.

The only real challenge is that someone has to do a whole lot of data entry to make this information searchable. See, it’s more straightforward than you thought!

Until we get into the realms of Unstructured Data.

What Is Unstructured Data?

Human beings generate Unstructured Data. It comes from countless sources and is much harder for humans or software to analyze. It includes:

  • online reviews like Yelp, TripAdvisor, or Google reviews
  • social media posts, “likes” and “shares”
  • “Tweets”
  • customer service phone calls or emails
  • inbound complaints
  • positive or negative reports in the media, like a negative feature about your business on the local news
  • scientific information in the press, like weather reports that affect travel
  • image-based platforms, like Instagram
  • chatrooms in online games

Software developers are struggling to create reliable algorithms to study this sort of information. It’s difficult because platforms change quickly.

Unstructured data may be challenging to monitor, but it has a direct and immediate effect on your bottom line!

If you’ve ever had a rash of 1-star reviews or been put on blast on social media in a negative way, you know what we mean.

Consumers trust each other, and online reviews have mostly replaced “word of mouth” advertising. That’s why quality advertising and reputation management are key to your business.

How to Benefit From Big Data Analysis

Whether done by software or a staffer, use big data analysis is to dial in your marketing efforts.

Let’s consider Google PPC (pay-per-click) campaigns for instance. You can use software or staff to research which phrases worked best, in which geographical areas, and on what dates. Then, you can be more focused in the future with your PPC budget, spending more during specific weeks or months, or targeting a particular market.

  • Big data management can take the guesswork out of marketing.

Even the smallest organizations can benefit from a “boots on the ground” approach to big data. Maybe you employ a millennial who would love to be tasked with online reputation management for an hourly wage. Have them monitor all the big review sites and Facebook for a start.

Our Role 

The staff at Onstage Publications are branding experts! We publish this blog to help keep our advertisers and performing arts organizations in-the-know about the hottest marketing topics. As always, if you need professional program booksdigital signage, or direct mail contact with an elite audience, reach out to us today.

Related Resources:

Investopedia: Big Data Definition

Structured vs. Unstructured Data

For ninety years, The Bushnell Center has been Greater Hartford’s crowning cultural jewel. It’s a unique venue for performing arts, but also for education and community activities.

Every time we highlight one of our venues, we focus on one or two unique concepts we admire about it. The Bushnell Center has so much to offer, it’s going to be a challenge. From a historic building that has served generations of Hartford, Connecticut performance arts patrons, to their dynamic 21st century performing arts center, to their modern message of cultural diversity and community outreach, the Bushnell has it all!

With so many wonderful attributes to highlight, we’ll need to go back to the very beginning, nearly a century ago.

History of The Bushnell Center: Founded by Father & Daughter Ninety Years Ago

Per their website, the Bushnell’s tale is a family-love story, which began with father Horace and culminated through daughter Dotha. Both individuals left tremendous imprints on the Capital City of Hartford, CT. (If you’re looking for a different kind of love story, check out our blog post about The Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts.)

Horace Bushnell was a well-respected man, perhaps one of the greatest scientific minds in a younger America.

  • He was a Yale-educated minister, theologian, reverend, scientist, and inventor.
  • He was also one of the founders of modern Protestantism.
  • Horace was a renowned and respected inventor, with many completed patents.
  • Scientists and inventors from all around the world consulted with him for advice.

Horace’s daughter Dotha had a vision for Greater Hartford. Her vision included a world-class performing arts center in that would be a memorial to her beloved father, and also a gift to her Hartford community.

  • She hired well-known architects Corbett, Harrison, and MacMurray to design the Bushnell.
  • These innovative architects designed the world-famous Radio City Music Hall.
  • Dotha sold her stocks and investments in December 1928 (right before the Great Depression) to fund construction in 1929.
  • In 1930 the Center opened and was called a “beacon of hope,” in the midst of the Great Depression.

Offering both employment and the distraction of entertainment for 2,800 seats per performance, the Bushnell has been cherished by Hartford families ever since!

The Historic Buildings of Bushnell Center

Every community has its landmarks. Seattle has the Space Needle, Las Vegas is home to the Stratosphere. The Bushnell is one of those special structures that creates a feeling of home and a sense of location for passersby. It’s a beloved landmark in the community, and established a sense of community and belonging among the locals.

The Audience Experience at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts

The Bushnell Center offers a unique audience experience, blending original historic buildings with state-of-the-art theatrical technology. It’s a large campus, but any visit should include a visit to two primary buildings and a selfie with Drama.

Visit The William H. Mortensen Hall  an exceptional example of the Art Deco style. Images of the sun, moon, and stars -symbolizing light, knowledge, and eternity abound for the audience’s admiration.

The Mortensen Hall is home to Drama –  the largest hand-painted ceiling mural in the US! Barry Faulkner and the staff created this 1929 masterpiece, which features the Muse of Drama. Surrounding the deity are vivid representations of theatrical performance and hope, as well as astrological symbolism and zodiac references. One cannot help but admire the symbolism and beauty of Drama!

Admire The Maxwell M. and Ruth R. Belding Theater,  which seats 906 souls. This beautiful, modern theater known locally as “The Belding” opened its doors in 2002. Younger and smaller than the Mortensen hall, the audience experiences state-of-the-art acoustics and a more exclusive performance.

  • This ceiling mural, by Evergreen Studios of NYC, offers a more modern interpretation of Art Deco sun, moon, and stars in the main hall.

Our Role at Onstage Publications

At Onstage, our mission is to provide the finest luxury-level program books to illustrious performing arts centers, like the Bushnell. We are honored to work with these historic venues, and we love to help them modernize with high-quality digital signage for advertisers. Our goal is always to present performing artists and advertisers in the finest publications possible. Reach out to us today if you’d like to get your brand in front of Hartford, Connecticut’s most affluent audience.

A few of our satisfied clients.

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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.

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