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Recession Marketing Is on the Rise

  |  November 20, 2008   |  Comments

Major brands like Kellogg, Kmart, and Visa promote the economic value they can deliver to consumers.

Kellogg is advertising its cereal as costing less than $0.50 a bowl. Kmart is promoting its layaway service leading up to the holiday shopping season. And ClickZ's executive editor received an e-mail promotion for a local restaurant's judicious "recession remedy" promotion. If it isn't already obvious that times are tough out there, the emergence of recession marketing campaigns is all the proof we need.

It's the latest marketing trend, poised to supplant green-themed campaigns (at least until the holiday season has passed). Whether concentrating on their differentiating deals, special seasonal offers, or cost-cutting coupons, brands are reimagining their approach to communicating their potential -- and suddenly more economically discerning -- customers.

According to a survey conducted by Harris Interactive and commissioned by online coupon site RetailMeNot, consumers are likely to cut their budgets during an economic recession but will continue to spend if provided with discounts. They're also just as likely to look to the Web for deals as they are to stores.

In response, consumer marketers are focusing their most recent ad campaigns not just on the bargains they're able to offer but also on the economic value they can deliver at a time when the country's acutely aware of what it's spending and where. Ads that take a decidedly cash-conscious spin are cropping up on television, in print, and of course, online.

On the Web this boils down to some strategic media buys. Reworking your ad creative is a good start, but identifying the right placements is critical to ensuring your message reaches buyers. Advertising trends often follow content trends, so we now have a surfeit of timely new site sections and features -- along with online search habits -- to help propel us. What follows are a few places and ways with which to start and a peek into how some of your competitors are employing these opportunities in their campaigns.

Cash In on Oprah's Finance Content

The all-powerful talk-show queen has always made a point of addressing current social issues and offering advice on how to overcome those that threaten to prevent her viewers from living their "best life." Our economic crisis is no exception. Recent episodes of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" have provided tips for stretching the dollar in the kitchen and guided consumers toward more financially sound lifestyle decisions.

On Oprah.com, the Money section is the place for advertisers eager to tout the ways they can positively impact our wallets. The section includes information on personal finance, real estate, parenting, and debt. Among the advertisers taking advantage of the contextually relevant space are Kmart -- which has included Oprah.com on its layaway campaign media plan -- and Visa.

The latter is currently running banners that highlight discounts from select retailers when consumers pay with a Visa card. It's part of Visa's Holiday Deal Train campaign, which comes complete with a festive and functional microsite where visitors can search among dozens of merchant partners for deals like $30 off $150 or more and free shipping. In terms of timeliness, the campaign is spot on: it combines discounts with a seasonal spin without compromising Visa's brand integrity.

Search for Savings

Many marketers have adeptly identified search marketing as an effective way to drive budget conscious consumers to view their products in a different light. Brands like Pillsbury and Betty Crocker are buying up phrases like "budget friendly recipes" to encourage Internet users to download a coupon booklet in exchange for subscribing to their e-mail newsletters.

Kraft's ads appear under searches for "cheap dinners," with links leading to its "Budget Recipes" site section. A search on "inexpensive cooking" produces ads for AOL, which directs consumers to its food section with search ad copy that reads, "Cooking on a budget? We have great ideas for you!" Even in cases where portals aren't dramatically adapting their cooking content to more thoroughly address the subject of stretching the weekly grocery fund, search ads offer a way to remain relevant and appear sensitive to consumers' current interests and needs.

Pocketbooks may be closely guarded these days, but the right media buys and related creative can still attract consumers. Employ both in a way that demonstrates your brand's understanding of the current environment, and give your customers something with the value they seek.

Join us for a Advanced Keyword Research for Search Ads on December 3 at 1 pm EST. Learn how to identify and refine the initial set of possible keywords; score your keywords by popularity, specificity, and other factors; and more!


Tessa Wegert

Tessa Wegert is a business reporter and former media strategist specializing in digital. In addition to writing for ClickZ since 2002, she has contributed to such publications as USA Today, Marketing Magazine, Mashable, and The Globe and Mail. Tessa manages marketing and communications for Enlighten, one of the first full-service digital marketing strategy agencies servicing such brands as Bioré, Food Network, illy, and Hunter Douglas. She has been working in online media since 1999.

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