COVID-19 has been a huge blow to economy. But it's the perfect time for brands to be investing.


Only 7% of marketers say that their brands are investing more in marketing during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is compared to 50% who say that they are making significant cuts.

Marketing budgets are usually the first budgets to cut in tough times. And that’s not necessarily the best decision.

We may not know what's around the corner, but we can ALWAYS learn from the past. More specifically, from the success achieved by brands that continued to invest in themselves during previous economic downturns. Brands from General Motors to IBM to Apple were all founded in a recession - you can read a full list here



Kantar Worldpanel's BrandZ tracking shows that investing in brand produces greater long term returns, even through difficult economic times

 Kantar Worldpanel's BrandZ tracking shows that investing in brand produces greater long term returns, even through difficult economic times

As COVID-19 and its economic wrecking-ball is 100% unprecedented, these lessons go back to our last recession in 2008 (hopefully we won’t be doing the same).


Lesson #1 – have a clear vision and strategy

Reckitt Benckiser is a global company with 17 ‘powerbrands’ including Nurofen, Finish and Harpic. Their recession strategy was to keep innovating in better products for consumers. Revising product formulations and trialling new ideas before launch helped their net revenue more than double in the last 10 years.


Lesson #2 – build your strategy around the brand

Lego continued to progress financially during the recession by focusing on marketing and improving their core bricks and mortar range. Everything they did built on the quality and longevity of their trusted brand status – knowing parents won’t invest in toys that kids will throw aside within a few weeks. Their strategy even boosted nostalgia for classic toys and sales rocketed for its Star Wars film range.


Lesson #3 – be a generous brand during austere times

While most car manufacturers reported sales declines, Hyundai boldly bucked the trend by allowing customers to return new cars without affecting their credit rating if they lost their job during the recession.


Lesson #4 – remember your loyal customers

Posh grocer Waitrose had a problem. Their core customer base was deserting them in droves and switching to more pocket-friendly supermarkets. In March 2009, they launch Essential Waitrose – a value range promising quality you’d expect at prices you wouldn’t. Their re-priced and repackaged lines soon uplifted sales by up to 60% and delivered a 10% YOY sales increase.


Lesson #5 – stay single-minded

Virgin Atlantic doubled its profits at the same time British Airways reported a record £401m tax loss. Same market, different results. Why? Virgin Atlantic prides itself on listening to customers whilst flying them with fun, class and comfort. A message their advertising continued to promote alongside some rather attractive long haul fares.


So, there you go. Your brand is your most valuable asset – not marketing it will only do harm. But brands that constantly invest in themselves will continue to deliver.


Whatever happens.


Jo Richards

Jo Richards

Senior Copywriter