Recession-Proofing Marketing: How To Avoid Being Left Behind

June 8, 2022

Let’s get something out of the way: it is not possible to “recession-proof” your business. Anyone who tells you otherwise is not being honest. What you can do is learn from experience and anticipate any pivots needed to weather the storm long-term. If indeed we are in a recession, this will be my fourth at Ciceron, and in many respects, the lessons I’ve learned have served me well enough to continue to counsel clients through their journeys.

A uniquely troubling recession

While there are ongoing arguments about whether or not we’re officially in a recession, for planning purposes, it’s wise to consider the worst case scenario. And, most of the macro data is showing that a recession is either already here or just around the corner

The problem with this particular recession is that it’s colliding with other macro factors unrelated to the broader economic conditions—namely the loss of cookies and an astounding amount of resistance by most brands to normalize first-party data strategies. 

Why is this concerning? Once brands can no longer buy audience data, which has been fine but in some regards lazy, they will be dependent on either a) their own first-party data from which to grow and extend their audience pools, or b) they will be entirely dependent on having to purchase non-data driven media. Brands who decline to build first-party data solutions will find themselves with fewer targeting options, less media flexibility and limited access to some of the highest-performing media channels. Performance attribution models will take a 20-year hit all at a time of recession when more is demanded from every marketing dollar. 

First-party data refresher

This is all the data you own about your customers. Email lists, addresses and information that consumers have shared directly with you—like personalization data, preferences and purchase data—are all first-party data. No one can take that from you (with the notable exception of consumers themselves). It’s yours. Google, Apple and Facebook have no access to this information. As a result, those who have the most first-party data will win. Period. 

Who knows this best? Amazon. When we think of Amazon, we think of large warehouses with robotics and an entire transportation network. But that is not Amazon’s value. Amazon’s value is that they potentially know you better than you know yourself, at least from a commerce standpoint. Amazon is a first-party data Fort Knox, and its algorithms around this data are the true value of the company. 

First-party data will be the currency of your brand moving forward.

At Ciceron, we’ve been preparing our clients for this shift since the first rumblings of cookie deprecation. Despite delays on Google’s end, change is happening and will most definitely exacerbate how marketers experience a recession.

Steps for recession-proofing your marketing and advertising 

If you want to soften the impact of this recession, you’ll need to sharpen your focus in three key areas. 

  1. Commit to growing first-party data. Really do it. Get a handle on what you have. Get it into position through a data lake/warehouse/clean room. Whatever you call it, just invest. We know budgets are getting tighter, but waiting until the data spigot gets turned off will be too late. You must commit to a long-term plan that embraces your customers’ needs for personalization. In doing so, they will provide you with more information about themselves, their needs and desires. Remember, this is a reciprocal relationship. Just asking them with no promise of value will not work. They don’t owe you anything—you have to earn it.
  2. Test new ID solutions. Many players like The Trade Desk, LiveRamp and other blockchain startups are trying to introduce new identity solutions to help brands thrive in a cookieless world. Include a test of one of these in every substantially sized media campaign for the remainder of 2022. This is your opportunity to learn!
  3. Get serious about email marketing. It may not seem sexy, but a solid email marketing strategy will work harder for you than almost anything else you do. We’ve been saying it for 25+ years and believe it now more than ever. I’ve never understood what’s not sexy about 40x returns on the investment.

The bottom line 

A recession is looming (or already present) and data-for-purchase is on its way out. When these two collide, brands who invested in first-party data solutions will be the ones to succeed. Marketing leaders need to adjust their strategies to reflect the new reality and find ways to better communicate these challenges to their C-Suite colleagues. This is no small task, but you’re not alone. Our team can help you take the necessary steps and find the right solutions for your specific needs. Contact us to get a conversation started.