Marketing in a Recession: Getting a Bigger Piece of a Smaller Pie

There is always something to be learned from history, either from mistakes or successes. With the current state of the economy, I chose to focus on the positive. The other day I was thinking that there must have been businesses that thrived during a time of an economic slump. After all, there is always a need for something, and so there should always be someone who is able to recognize a need and fill it. So, I did some recession research and found quite a few well known and successful companies that have grown during a recession and even during the Great Depression.

So, who are they, what did they do, and what can we learn from them?

It was in 1876 that Thomas Edison opened his first research lab. In the middle of a six year recession known as the Panic of 1873, he created one of the best-known inventions of all time, the incandescent light bulb. GE is now the third largest company in the world.

During the Post World War I recession, Walt and Roy Disney opened the Disney Brothers cartoon studio. They thrived during the roaring twenties, and continued to grow even during the Great Depression, when they launched their first full length animated feature film, providing people with a much needed escape to the movies.

Both radio and print advertising thrived during the Great Depression. They were the emerging new mediums for businesses. This helped both Proctor & Gamble and Chevrolet flourish as they invested in these new marketing techniques.

In 1957, Burger King launched the whopper. Keeping prices low, it sold for 37 cents. In 1958 they took advantage of an increasingly popular medium, television, and aired their first commercial. In the early 70s, they were the first fast-food restaurant to offer an enclosed and air-conditioned seating area for guests to dine.

During the 1973 oil crisis, Federal Express began operations, and in 1975, Bill Gates started Microsoft.

In 1980, CNN and MTV were launched, bringing something new into homes as the first all-news channel and the first music video channel.

All of these companies recognized a need and filled it well. Whether it was an innovative product or a new way to market a product, they were successful at marketing. They found a way to stand out from the competition. They were able to reach their customers and give them what they wanted. Taking advantage of the emerging advertising opportunities of print and radio proved to be successful during the Great Depression, and with the Internet as the emergent medium for businesses today, the possibilities are endless.

Smart marketers understand that this is the time to increase your marketing efforts…and that doesn’t necessarily mean increase your marketing budget. While evaluating your budget changes, evaluate market changes and consumer behavior as well. It means finding out who your customers are and what they want. With social media, it’s even easier today to find your customers and their needs. Use Twitter to try searching for your company brand or products and listen to what people are saying, or try searching for specific needs to find new customers. There’s still a need to be filled during a recession, and consumers are expressing their needs and concerns all over the Internet. Good marketers know their customers. New data from Hitwise suggests that searchers are starting to use more keywords in search engine queries. Perhaps this trend comes from searchers who know exactly what they are looking for, making it even more important for businesses to really know their customers. Know your customer. Be Creative. Explore new ways of marketing to get a bigger piece of a smaller pie.