Senior marketing executives see opportunities as well as threats in responses to recessionary times.

The approaches of bluechip Australian companies to a recession differ from previous recession responses. This appears primarily due to the growing use of internal and external digital marketing technologies. Another issue driving the change in marketing responses is the lower degree of customer loyalty compared to previous recessions.

While corporate strategic responses echo past responses to the recessions of the 70s, 80s, 90s and the Asian meltdown of 2000 it is at the tactical level and to lesser degree at the marketing strategy level where differences were found.

Anna Whitlam, CEO of Market U says:

We have already and will continue to see marketing departments centralise to maximise accountability, demanding well-rounded marketers who are able to manage all aspects of the marketing mix. We will also see greater accountability and in some cases shared KPIs for marketing teams to work in greater collaboration with sales teams. This approach will be more cost effective and ensure greater efficiency, which are key issue marketers must consider.

A sample of responses from the marketing directors/managers from two focus groups comprising executives from ANZ, Ansell, Australia Post, BP, CGU, Ford, Fonterra, Fosters, Heinz, Hitwise, Medibank Private, Seek, STA Travel and Vanguard Investments included:

We consider the downturn a good time to ‘clean up the backyard’ with a review of our costs and an examination of synergies that we may have missed.

We are still focusing on new product development as we believe this will put us in good stead as we come out of the recession.

In our industry many competitors are emphasising price cuts and pressure on companies in the industry who dont copy this strategy to justify themselves.

According to Fausto Marasco CEO of Premier Technologies, Good companies often find that recessions give their people a chance to hone and improve their skills. Through necessity we are forced to step back and question everything we do. We are called to justify whether the functions we perform on a daily basis during the good times truly add value to the organisation.

The report by Bill Callaghan, Terry Kanellos and Dr Michael Valos comprises focus group data as well as a 33-year literature review using US and international research literature. One of the differences between the historical research and the focus groups was the greater emphasis the literature put on channel conflict and consumer information search.

The study provides a sequence of steps for recessionary responses to follow. In addition it classifies focus group and literature insights according to strategic frameworks such as the Kenichi Ohmae 3Cs model as well as a strategic to tactical to implementation hierarchy.

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