Brand and marketing outlook 2023: 5 ways to bolster your brand in an uncertain economy

Brand and marketing outlook 2023: 5 ways to bolster your brand in an uncertain economy


Philip Guiliano, Vladimir Kacar, Paige Reilly

Organizations tend to respond to periods of economic uncertainty in one of three ways. On one end of the spectrum, they double down on their growth strategy to achieve market gains and outpace the competition. On the other end, they cut spending, reduce the size of their workforce, and put a moratorium on new initiatives. And in the middle, they strive to maintain the status quo until any potential economic headwinds are behind them.

No matter where your organization lands on this spectrum, it’s important to consider how an uncertain economy will impact your marketing plans in general and the health of your brand as a whole. After all, savvy marketing leaders like you know you can’t afford to stand still. You have to pay close attention to your brand now so your organization can emerge from this economic cycle in a strong position.

So whether we’re headed into a recession akin to 2008 or on the verge of another economic boom, here are five ways to bolster your brand for whatever lies ahead.

1. Create nimble, iterative marketing plans that harness the winds of change

If you’re still creating annual marketing plans, now’s the time to stop. The world is changing too quickly, and long-term plans can hold you back from implementing results-oriented strategies that drive your brand forward.

Even half-year plans can become obsolete before organizations can bring them to fruition. Though marketing teams often need a half-year plan to secure funding from the company’s annual budget, it’s important to re-examine the plan on a regular basis and be ready to adapt as environments change. Keeping the larger plan loose and creating quarterly plan will allow you to seize new opportunities as they emerge and pivot away from strategies that don’t yield desired results.

Creating shorter-term marketing plans also ensures you make the most of your marketing spend — especially if you’re facing budget cuts. By making investment decisions based on real-time input, you can channel your limited resources into the areas likely to yield the most ROI.

And if a rebrand is on the horizon for your organization, operating nimbly now will set you up for a smoother rollout later.

2. Optimize your brand and marketing operations to boost efficiency

It’s almost always a good time to get your operational house in order. But if your organization is responding to the current economic climate cautiously (i.e., pausing new initiatives, cutting spending), now is an especially ideal moment to assess and optimize the way you do business. Doing so can help you speed up your time to market, launch more campaigns that drive results, and improve brand consistency.

Whether the economy grows or contracts, marketers should plan for the likelihood that a merger, acquisition, consolidation, or partnership will impact their brand in the coming years.

Taking stock of where you stand is a critical first step toward making needed improvements. Begin by asking questions like:

  • How are your people spending their time? Are roles and responsibilities clearly defined? Do you have the right people with the right skill sets at the table?
  • What happens when employees leave? Are team members cross-trained on business-critical tasks so the organization can keep moving forward during times of transition?
  • Do team members have the tools and technologies (digital and otherwise) they need to do their jobs, especially if you’ve embraced hybrid or remote work options?
  • Do employees across the organization have access to brand-related templates and resources to produce assets accurately and consistently?
  • Are team members using the systems and tools available to them to their full capability? Is there unharnessed potential you can unlock with additional training?
  • Are there opportunities to standardize processes and procedures to eliminate re-work and redundancy?

And of course, it’s also important to evaluate your agency and vendor relationships and assess whether you’re getting the best service at the best price.

3. Capitalize on the momentum of an M&A and/or partnership-driven rebrand

Whether the economy grows or contracts in 2023, M&A activity is expected to remain strong. As such, marketers should plan for the likelihood that a merger, acquisition, consolidation, or partnership will impact their brand in the coming years.

Rebranding as a result of an M&A or strategic partnership is an excellent way to build momentum, gain cost efficiency, and drive brand value highTherefore, resist any pressure you may feel to roll it out on a shoestring budget. You’ll need robust resources (financial and human) to achieve the brand integration and cultural alignment that will result in the market impact you’re after.

Start by:

  • Investigating your CapEx vs. OpEx policies. By capitalizing allowable expenses and spreading others out over multiple fiscal years, you can reduce the burden on this year’s bottom line.
  • Calculating the cost savings you’ll achieve by rationalizing and streamlining branded assets, vendor relationships, and agency partnerships – and bake the budget you need into the M&A or partnership contract.
  • Conducting cost/benefit analyses to weigh the pros and cons of launching your brand change with a big splash versus rolling it out more gradually.

In an uncertain economy, it will undoubtedly take additional effort to convince the C-suite that a full-court-press rebrand is worth the investment. Building accurate financial projections that take your organization’s unique needs into consideration will help you win the support you need.

4. Strengthen alignment between marketing and the C-suite

When COVID-19 changed thing in 2020, organizations moved quickly to deliver goods and services to audiences in a host of new ways. And in every channel, marketing leaders worked closely with their C-Suite peers to ensure their brand was accurately represented amid rapid change.

Strengthening these collaborative and mutually beneficial relationships will continue to be important as businesses face another wave of economic uncertainty. Whether you plan to introduce sophisticated technologies and tools into your marketing strategies or round out your team’s expertise by bringing new people on board, you’ll need to make the case for each investment you make.

Gaining buy-in and support is much easier when you’ve taken the time to build trust and your colleagues know your plans are aligned around shared business purposes and goals.

5. Rally employees and stakeholders around your brand purpose

Your brand does not belong to the marketing department alone. It touches every aspect of your organization — and every team member is responsible for living out your brand values and promise in one way or another.

In times of economic uncertainty, rallying team members around your brand purpose is a powerful way to boost morale and strengthen your culture. When team members understand how your brand supports your overarching business objectives, they’re more likely to embrace it in a deep and authentic way.

You also need employees to deliver your brand promise to external stakeholders with consistency. Your audience is facing potential economic upheaval, too and this may cause them to re-evaluate whether your brand resonates with their personal values and ideals. Training and equipping your employees to serve as effective ambassadors of your brand is the best way to meet your audience’s needs and foster increased brand loyalty.

Don’t let economic uncertainty stop your brand in its tracks

There’s no way to know exactly how the market will perform. Some companies realize significant gains despite strong economic headwinds. Others lose ground even in a bull market. But in many ways, your company’s brand and marketing outlook will be what you make it, so make it count.

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