Why Businesses Should Continue to Invest in Marketing During a Recession

For many businesses, marketing is the first budget to be cut during a recession. This blog details why that is a massive mistake.

8/27/20233 min read

As a small business owner, the prospect of a recession can be daunting. Economic downturns can lead to uncertainty, decreased consumer spending, and tightened budgets. Consequently, the knee-jerk reaction for many businesses might be to cut costs, and unfortunately, marketing budgets often find themselves on the chopping block. However, counterintuitive as it may seem, recessions present a crucial juncture where continued investment in marketing can make all the difference. In this blog post, we'll delve into why businesses should steadfastly invest in marketing during a recession and how doing so can drive long-term success.

Maintaining Brand Visibility and Recall

Inevitably lead to a decline in consumer spending. A study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that during the 2008 recession, consumer spending fell by nearly 4%. This decline can have a severe impact on businesses that decide to reduce or eliminate their marketing efforts. A visible presence during tough times can work wonders in keeping your brand top of mind when consumers eventually open their wallets again.

Gaining a Competitive Edge

A recession often prompts businesses to cut back on their marketing budgets. However, this also means that your competitors might be reducing their marketing activities. Seizing this opportunity to maintain or even increase your marketing initiatives can give you a competitive edge. According to a report by McGraw-Hill Research, companies that maintained or increased their marketing during the 1981-1982 recession saw an average sales growth of 256% over the following three years, in comparison to companies that decreased their marketing budgets.

Capitalising on Reduced Ad Costs

During economic downturns, advertising space and digital ad costs tend to drop due to decreased demand. This phenomenon was evident during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic when digital advertising costs decreased by 16% on average. By continuing to invest in marketing during a recession, businesses can take advantage of these reduced costs to maximise their marketing reach and impressions.

Fostering Customer Loyalty

Maintaining communication with your customers during challenging times can demonstrate your commitment to their needs. In a study conducted by the CMO Council, 47% of respondents stated that they were more likely to continue being loyal to brands that actively engaged with them during a recession. By using your marketing efforts to provide value, share relevant information, and show empathy, you can foster a stronger bond with your audience.

Nurturing Long-Term Growth

Short-term cost-cutting measures might provide temporary relief, but they can hinder your business's potential for long-term growth. The Harvard Business Review suggests that businesses that strategically invest in marketing during recessions are more likely to experience post-recession growth and financial success. This approach positions your business for success as the economy stabilises and starts to grow again.

Adapting to Changing Consumer Behaviour

Recessions often lead to shifts in consumer behaviour and preferences. As people adjust their spending habits, your marketing efforts can be tailored to address these changing needs. For instance, during the 2020 pandemic, e-commerce experienced a significant boom as consumers turned to online shopping. By adapting their strategies to align with evolving trends, businesses can stay relevant and capture new opportunities.

Leveraging Digital Marketing Channels

Digital marketing is more cost-effective and flexible compared to traditional marketing methods. According to eMarketer, global digital ad spending reached $333.25 billion in 2019, demonstrating the increasing importance of digital channels. By investing in online advertising, content marketing, social media campaigns, and email marketing, businesses can efficiently reach their target audience even during a recession.

In conclusion, the decision to invest in marketing during a recession isn't merely a tactical choice but a strategic imperative for small businesses. The data-backed benefits of maintaining your marketing efforts during tough economic times far outweigh the perceived savings of budget cuts. By maintaining brand visibility, seizing competitive advantages, capitalising on reduced ad costs, fostering loyalty, nurturing long-term growth, adapting to changing consumer behaviour, and leveraging digital channels, businesses position themselves for success not only during the recession but also in the post-recession landscape.

Remember, the key lies in a well-thought-out marketing strategy that aligns with the current economic climate and consumer behaviours. Your willingness to adapt, persist, and invest wisely will determine your business's resilience and readiness to thrive in the face of economic challenges.


  1. National Bureau of Economic Research. "The 2007-2009 Recession: Similarities to and Differences from the Past." 2010.

  2. McGraw-Hill Research. "The Long-Term Effects of the 1981-1982 Recession on Advertising Expenditure." 1986.

  3. WordStream. "The Impact of COVID-19 on Advertising: A Global Update." 2020.

  4. CMO Council. "Engage at Every Stage: An Investigation of Video Activation." 2009.

  5. Harvard Business Review. "How to Market in a Downturn." 2008.

  6. eMarketer. "Global Ad Spending Update: Second Quarter 2019." 2019.

Invest in marketing during a recession
Invest in marketing during a recession