Future-Proof Your Recession Print Promotions

Low cost shouldn't mean low quality!

During a recession, brands and businesses don't quit advertising, they just change their print advertising strategy. Right now we're seeing a lot of print design that focuses on coupon-cutting, two-for-one deals, and rock-bottom pricing strategies. In short, our printers are pumping out a lot of hyphenated buzzwords.

But according to market experts, price-slashing strategies run the risk of hurting businesses over the long term. Sure, they help us cope with the current crisis, but when the market evens out again, brands will be left with hastily altered reputations that will stick for a long time.

Two separate editorials in Ad Age this week warn marketers against positioning brands as 'cheap' just to weather the recession. Low prices and cheap product alternatives may help you stay afloat now, but are far from future-proof. Cheapen your image today, and once things readjust, the world will move on, and you will still be that cheap product that people bought when they couldn't do better.

Al Ries points to a 1930s recession-era story as proof of this eventuality. Before the Great Depression, Packard was THE name in American luxury cars, according to Ries. But during the Depression, Packard came out with a cheap model to help weather the downturn. Cadillac, on the other hand, maintained their luxury status. Result: after the Depression, people were scooping up 'lacs left and right, and Packard disappeared into that dry river gulch where un-notice-worthy mid-priced brands go to die.

Ad Age contributor Jack Neff agrees with Ries. Brands that try to get away from a high-end rep right now won't be able to restore their image in the future, he writes. According to Neff, a devalued product today won't be able to reintegrate as a quality product later, and I have to agree.

There's been a lot of talk lately about 'the death of the brand,' but the fact remains that brands evoke primarily emotional responses, and unfortunately, things that get us through rough times won't be selected in the future as worthy standbys. Rather, they will be unpleasant reminders of lean times. Like that Hamburger Helper you had to eat without the hamburger, or those cheap clothes from Walmart. They might have done the job at the time, but for many, better times will mean NEVER having to buy product X again.

So what's a brand to do? This is where effective print advertising makes all the difference. You can offer those sales and promotions, but do it in such a way that it doesn't make consumers feel like they're getting in to the bread line.

You don't have to use ugly neon colors or garish copy to push your promotion. Instead, push 'style on a budget,' and 'affordable solutions.' At times like these, people aren't buying unless they need to, anyway. Which means that they'll see your promotion if they're looking for it, and if not, you're not going to force those wallets open with any coupon or brass savings scheme, no matter how rock-bottom.

At Hotcards, we're pretty lucky. We've been selling our low-cost, high-quality buiness model since Day 1, so we haven't had to start singing a different tune lately. But for those of you about to go to press with a garish sales promotion, reconsider, edit, and refine. Don't allow this recession to steal your credibility, along with your clientele.

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