How to Market in a Downturn: A Kellogg’s Case Study

How are companies adapting to today’s uncertain market conditions? Many are wondering if it’s appropriate to market amidst the coronavirus crisis?

Perhaps, it’s best to look to the past as a guide to our present and future.

Specifically, by deconstructing Kellogg’s advertising strategy during the Great Depression.

Continue reading to learn about Kellogg’s marketing strategy during a time of economic crisis. We’ll then review actionable marketing strategies to engage with consumers during COVID-19.

A Tale of Two Companies: Post and Kellogg

The year is 1930, and the U.S. is in the throes of the Great Depression. During the decade that marked the Great Depression, these two companies deployed vastly different approaches to its marketing strategy in a downturn. Kellogg’s and Post were competitive rivals that were neck and neck leading into the Great Depression. Similar to many companies at the time, Post reigned in expenses and slashed advertising budgets. Kellogg’s decided on a different course of action.

Specifically, Kellogg’s executed three distinct strategies that counteracted headwinds every business faced during the Great Depression.

  1. Expanded product offerings – For starters, Kellogg’s introduced the now iconic Rice Krispies line with brand mascots Snap, Crackle and Pop. The increased demand for Kellogg’s products led to the construction of a new plant in Manchester, England and increased Kellogg’s capital for acquisitions.
  2. Increased advertising expenses – Kellogg’s famously doubled its advertising spending when rival competitors like Post Cereal slashed budgets. Kellogg’s also heavily invested in radio, a relatively newer advertising channel at the time.
  3. Invested in R&D – Which included displaying the recipes and nutritional value of its product offerings. W.K. Kellogg declared, “I’ll invest my money in people” and founded the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

The result?

By taking the actions above, Kellogg’s profits rose by nearly 30% and the company attained the market dominance it still holds today. While Kellogg’s strategy was unprecedented and bold, it is a risk that paid off. The New Yorker detailed Kellogg’s marketing strategy, citing various economic recessions in the past and the takeaways that can be gleaned based on the positive shifts that companies have seen. One of the biggest takeaways? Firms that increased ad spending or kept budgets stable experienced precipitous growth in the three years that followed a recession, compared to the company’s that cut budgets.

What can we learn from Kellogg’s marketing strategy in a downturn? How did they connect and engage with consumers in a meaningful way?

By using the tenets of Kellogg’s marketing strategy and applying it to the technology, tools and channels available to marketing teams today, we’ll review considerations to grow and connect with consumers in this time of crisis.

Invest in Paid Advertising

While your competition may scale back its paid advertising, your organization is uniquely poised to reap the benefits. Increased impression shares are giving companies more bang for the buck, which provides an opportunity for any company to gain visibility, regardless of how broad or niche your industry and customer base.

According to WordStream, Google search ad impressions have decreased by 7%. Though keep in mind, conversion rates may be slightly lower, as people may be hesitant to convert today, but are certainly in a state of research and information gathering. Industries like health and medical, non-profits, charities and finance have seen increased CTR and conversions.

Consider allocating marketing spend to paid advertising on the following channels:

  • Google Ads
  • Bing Ads
  • Facebook Advertising
  • Programmatic Display
  • Remarketing
  • Streaming services like Netflix or Hulu

Both your industry and customer base must be taken into account when allocating budgets.

Consistently Publish Helpful and Relevant Content

While your customers are social distancing in their homes, they are searching for answers online. Creating content that answers these questions will foster deeper levels of loyalty from your customers, while also positioning your organization as a credible, trusted and informed thought leader in your industry.

Now more than ever, it’s important that your content is more helpful than promotional. Meaning, be careful in the topics your organization chooses to cover, as not to be perceived as tone-deaf to the needs of customers. Offer resources that enhance the lives of your customers during their time of need.

Being transparent and proactive with topics, rather than being reactive and “business as usual”, will garner the kind of attention that’s valued now and remembered when times become stable. Consider amplifying pieces of content using the channels above that you feel are especially helpful to customers. This will ensure your messaging reaches your intended audience. Additionally, utilizing email to send relevant, helpful content, resources and pertinent updates to potential customers will keep them in the loop and is a non-spammy way to engage with prospects that puts your content front and center.

Move Conversations Online and Create “Experiences”

While your brand can’t replace the connection felt by friends or loved ones during a time of social distancing, it can create experiences that bring your tribe closer together. Namely, through implementing various technology solutions that allow your brand to communicate seamlessly with customers and create better experiences. The recommended integrations provide opportunities to increase the quality and quantity of inquiries and enhance your organization’s offerings.

Live chat – Implementing a live chat feature – whether on your website or social media – helps prevent inquiries from slipping through the cracks. Live chat promotes communication between prospective customers and staff. If a chatbot is used, notification functionality can be implemented to help teams stay proactive to conversations and answer urgent requests.

Virtual Tours – Depending on your state’s guidelines, if customers aren’t able to tour your actual location, a virtual tour is your best bet. Consider adding a virtual tour to your website, and on the social platforms your brand has an active presence on. Additionally, going live for these tours boosts engagement potential and conversations between potential customers and provides additional accessibility with your staff, which could prove all the difference in creating a memorable experience.

Informational videos – Whether your organization chooses to convert existing content into video, or create informational videos, one thing is certain: video is designed to spur engagement. One of the hurdles for organizations centers around the cost associated with creating videos. Luckily, the barrier to entry is much lower than you may expect. There are tools that can help businesses create informational videos at a reasonable budget that appear polished and efficiently produced.

Again, these videos can be original or repurposed from blog content or content on any number of your website’s landing pages. Look to incorporate motion graphics, music, and text callouts within your informational videos to create a purposeful reason for prospects to reach out to your organization. Better yet, these informational videos can be embedded on your website and utilized on channels like Facebook and YouTube.

Webinars – Webinars are an accessible platform to delve into a specific topic with your audience. Create webinars around pertinent questions your audience has to deliver a compelling experience for attendees. Webinars help your organization nurture warm and active leads and can be embedded on your website to create engagement from those who missed the initial rollout. Additionally, your webinars can be atomized into subsequent pieces of content to create additional engagement.

By integrating the technology solutions above, your organization will create experiences that open the door to future conversations, conversions and eventually, loyal customers.

Contact our Team to Assist Your Marketing Strategy in a Downturn

Times are certainly different today than the ones faced by Kellogg’s during the Great Depression. That said, by leveraging the marketing strategies above, your organization will be equipped to face the challenges of today’s unpredictable and uncertain market conditions.

Periods of market uncertainty never last, but the trust you build with customers today will not be forgotten. Linkmedia 360 is here to help now, and long after this economic cycle ends. Contact our team, and we’ll collaborate to recommend specific strategies to help your organization with its marketing strategy in a downturn.

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