Despite the downturn, will this be a vintage brand marketing year? The Marketing Society Forum

Fewer resources may lead to inferior campaigns, or be the stimulus for greater invention and focus.


I'm expecting big things from brand marketing in 2012. Tough times and tight budgets will subject campaigns to a 'survival of the fittest' test, with the 'fittest' being judged against three things.

First, quality. Brands will be looking for maximum value. Second, focus. When you can't afford to do everything you'd like, the money has to be spent on the most powerful campaign. We'll see more hard-hitting and creative campaigns. That's exciting.

Lastly, necessity is the mother of invention. It's easier to take risks when your back is against the wall. It might be an excuse for some ill-judged work, but it will also spawn some of the most inspirational output we've seen in a while.


Marketers must retain optimism that every year will be a vintage one; otherwise, what's the point of coming back each January? If necessity is the mother of invention, 2012 will be the finest of vintage years for brands.

For what is a brand if not a profitable invention? Moreover, what could be more profitable inventions than the brands that will define 2012 - the Queen and the Olympics?

With the fresh thinking that squeezed resources demand, 2012 has to be the year where brands start to marry (rather than dally with) the possibilities of modern channels to the comfortable certainty of old favourites.


With so many unknowns, brands face another challenging year in 2012. It is likely that several will disappear, especially in retail.

However, brand marketing can play a critical role in building consumer optimism and, ultimately, economic recovery.

An early Easter, the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebration, the Euro 2012 football tournament and the London Olympics will offer brands opportunities.

Comfort should also come from the great brand marketing delivered by the likes of Waitrose, John Lewis, Zara, Amazon and Apple. There is cause to view the glass as half full.


Brands will have to sharpen their value proposition, but that does not mean they can do it in the absence of great brand marketing.

As a planner once said to me (I think he was being flippant): 'Look, we're not saving lives, we're just making them better.'

Brands should take heed and demonstrate to customers how they're doing exactly that during the downturn. I'm sure that can provide some inspiration for some vintage brand marketing.



I can’t say yes or no in answer to this question. The only thing we are certain of is that we don’t know what will happen in the future.

But let me say I hope so.

And I hope that it’s a vintage year for branding BECAUSE of the downturn, not in spite of it.

We’ve seen wild and varied behaviour from FMCG brands and we’ve seen multiple retail driving promotions deeper than ever. Show me a grocery or household brand that is selling less than 65/70% on promotion through our supermarkets and you get the point. But that’s not to say that’s completely wrong. Clearly we all have an objective to help customers make their weekly budgets go as far as they can.

But, it’s now that the brave set out their stall and remember that it’s consumer (and retailer) trust and relationships with their brands that provide the tools for marketers to weather the storm.

Great brands are here to stay, but only if they behave like great brands and cement their position with their consumer franchise that they’ll be around in the good times and the bad.


There are reasons to be cheerful even in the face of a severe and prolonged economic downturn. There’s a great deal of evidence that recessions have a positive impact upon the arts, positivity and inventiveness inspired by adversity. Our research indicates there is a similar pattern for brands.  In times of great difficulties successful brands have frequently stepped in to deliver the positivity and optimism consumers crave.  So "Every Little Helps" was born against the backdrop of Conservative sex scandals, IRA bombing in Manchester and war in Somalia. Similarly ‘The Future’s Bright, the future’s Orange’ (dob 1994) was born against a backdrop of record unemployment & our news bulletins dominated by the Fred West murders & the Rwandan genocide.    Then as now, people crave positivity as an antidote to the prevailing miserablism and in 2012 we will once again see brands take on the mantle of this important cultural role.   Will it all be vintage?  Even I’m not that optimistic.  But can brands turn it into a vintage year for them? In the words of a fellow optimist, ‘Yes we can’.

Follow the debate online: As 2012 begins, should marketers view the glass as half full, or half empty?


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