How to make your brand recession-proof?

Times are tough as we enter 2023, with The Bank of England warning of the longest recession since the 1930s. It seems a good time to re-visit and refresh the recommendations of our very first research paper, Recession-Proof Branding, published back in 2008.

Our view, as in 2008, is that these challenging times could provoke a ‘Darwinian’ evolution for brands. The fittest, best managed brands will survive and thrive, taking the opportunity to grow share and be in a stronger position when times get better. However, weak brands will decline and maybe even die.

So, how to survive and thrive in the downturn?

Our top tips for making your brand ‘recession- proof’ fall under two headings:

  • SHARPEN YOUR STRATEGY: The current conditions are a ‘wake-up call’ for marketing, forcing teams to become much more business-savvy and bottom-line focused. This is how marketing should always be, but these fundamentals often get overlooked.
  • GET MORE FOR YOUR BUCK: Pressure on marketing budgets will only increase over the year. Boards will freeze or even cut marketing investment, despite studies showing that this is bad in the long run. But they’ll still expect the sales forecast to be delivered and the only way to do this is to get more bang for your marketing buck.

Below I share three examples of brands providing inspiration on how to implement this approach, from our set of nine New Year cards. Just hit reply and write “YES” if you’d like to get the full set of cards.


A razor sharp positioning is key to cut through the clutter of price-cutting messages and survive the threat from cheaper competition. Biscuit brand BN recently sharpened its positioning, remembering and refreshing what made it famous: putting smiles on the faces of children (and their parents!). Share, sales and penetration have all grown as a result.


Economic pressures may tempt you into the risk averse strategy of re-focusing on your loyal consumers. However, the only way to grow is to drive penetration by reaching more consumers, as Breitling are doing. This includes broadening reach beyond aviation enthusiasts and increasing appeal to female consumers with smaller format watches.


Companies often take a short-term view during recessions and cut marketing spend, creating opportunities for brave brands. A similar pattern occurred during Covid. One inspiring brand that forged ahead as big brands cut back was natural energy drink Tenzing. The brand boosted share of voice thanks to lower media costs. And the launch of a new Blackberry & Açaí version was accelerated, to respond to needs for active drinks as more people took up home fitness during lockdown.


Smart brands are looking for on-brand ways to help ease the cost-of-living crisis. Heinz’s Ask Henry campaign in partnership with retailer Morrisons is serving a free jacket potato topped with Heinz baked beans to 160,000 people. This move helps ‘share the pain’ of the recession with people whilst also driving product trial to boost long-term penetration.

In conclusion, this is year is likely to be tough for brands and businesses. Sharpening your strategy and maximising the efficiency of your marketing can help you ride out the storm.

For more inspiration on how to get the best bang for your branding bucks, we are hosting our next free webinar on TURBO CHARGED MARKETING PLANS on Thursday February 9th. You can save your seat by clicking HERE.