Marketing Spend During Times of Crisis

Research of the Week filters through hundreds of research studies and finds the most interesting and thought-provoking research for marketing professionals. Then we provide practical strategies and tips on how to apply the research to influence your marketing programs. Enjoy!

Great leaders are willing to make tough decisions during challenging times. Leadership is knowing the right thing to do and doing it, even when others are not. To be a great leader, you need to be fearless.

I just read the book Fearless, by Philadephia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson. In the book, Pederson discusses the famous fourth-down play in Super Bowl LII. Faced with a fourth down at the end of the half, the conventional wisdom was to kick an easy field goal and go to halftime with the lead. It was an easy decision and one that most (if not all) other coaches would make. It was an easy and safe decision. But Peterson didn’t make the easy decision but instead stuck to his philosophy of calculated aggression, and went for the touchdown instead of the field goal. Pederson made the tough decision and the rest is history. The now-famous play, Philly Special, was called, the touchdown was scored and the Philadelphia Eagles won their first-ever Super Bowl.

Fearless. The ability to make the right decision, even in challenging times.

Marketing leaders are being asked to make difficult decisions on marketing spend during challenging economic times. Do you stop spending? If you spend, how much and where do you spend your money? An April 2020 MarketingWeek study found that 90% of marketing professionals reported their budgets were frozen, delayed, or severely cut.

In the short-term, cutting budget may be necessary but is it the right thing to do moving forward? If companies continue to cut the budget without a plan for the next steps, how does that impact the future of the company?

Here are a few interesting studies to consider as you plan your next steps as a leader:

  • Harvard Business School studied 4,700 companies that went thought a recession and found that “firms that cut costs faster and deeper than rivals… have the lowest probability (21%) of pulling ahead of the competition when times get better.”
  • McGraw-Hill Research of 600 companies during the recession in 1981 found that businesses that chose to maintain or raise their marketing expenditures had significantly higher sales after the economic recovery. Not just a little higher, but 256% higher.
  • Bain & Company, MIT, Millward Brown, and other studies all show the risk of not investing in a recession.

A Kaon Interactive infographic tells the story of companies that win during challenging times based on smart decisions on marketing spend. The results are impressive for leaders that are fearless when making tough decisions.


Spoiler: Perfect Audience is doing research right on with hundreds of marketing professionals on their advertising spending plans in the next six months. Look for new data to help you better understand what other marketing professionals are doing and start making your strategic plans. If you want to discuss advertising trends for your specific industry, Perfect Audience has a wealth of data available for you. We will share with you what we are learning and help you apply those learnings to your specific situation. Click here to schedule a meeting.

<a href="" target="_self">Todd Lebo</a>

Todd Lebo

Partner & CMO - Ascend2: Todd uses the power of original research to discover what works in marketing and helps marketers apply those findings to marketing programs. He helped develop the Ascend2 Research-Based Marketing methodology, which is used by marketing technology firms and agencies to drive demand to their products and services.
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