It’s challenging to maintain responsible brand marketing in a tough economic climate. As in sailing, the instinctive reaction is to ‘batten down the hatches and ride out the storm’. The problem is that you won’t go anywhere of your choosing, you will have no control of your direction or the distance you are taken off course and you may not even survive if you get hit by a broadside wave. Not to mention that the ‘storm’ may last for far longer than anticipated. You have to act responsibly with an eye on the short, medium and long term climatic prospects.

Marketing is exactly the same. To survive the storm, you have to build resilience, face the waves and you may have to spend money and run the engine so that you continue to make progress in the right direction, whatever the weather. You have to do whatever is necessary to get the right product to the right market at the right price at the right time, all the while creating, maintaining and building long term relationships with customers.

This does not mean selling at any cost, or giving away your brand. This is the trap into which marketers can so easily fall. It means adapting the use of your resources to more appropriately address the ebbs and flows of the market you operate in. It means generating sustainable sales that are systematic and relate to prevailing sales cycles. Spend at peak buying periods, when customers want, or need to buy. Maintain a lower presence throughout the year to keep on reinforcing awareness of your brand, but be more specific and reach the key brand choice decision makers at this these times. But never sell your brand short for a short term gain that will cannibalise your brand or your medium or long term prospects or relationships.

Adding value is a wonderful way of making your brand stand out from the riff-raff and also-rans. Customers might not say it to you directly, but they really appreciate any actions that help them to build their businesses.

Think product knowledge, training, easy reference catalogues, professional advice on appropriate stock holding, tools to facilitate use or fitment of your brand, in-store display support and relevant information. Help your customers in ways that build and improve their interaction with your offering and do it better than your competitors.

Promote by all means, but promote responsibly. Who would you be more likely to buy from? Someone shouting ‘Cheap Fish’ or someone shouting ‘Fresh Fish!’?

Ross Piest