Whichever side of the recession debate you’re on, what’s clear is that there is economic uncertainty. On the heels of the “great resignation,” where people were leaving jobs in search of better pay, more flexibility, and increased job satisfaction, we’re now seeing hiring freezes at some companies. This doesn’t mean that every company will cut back, but many businesses will take a conservative approach to budgeting until they have a clearer idea as to how things will shake out.
So where do you invest to keep your company stable and growing? In Forrester’s 2022 B2B Marketing Survey, we found that 23% of high-growth B2B companies (of more than 1,000 employees and >20% annual revenue growth) plan to increase their reputation program budget by 10% or more.
Not only do they plan to invest in brand but also in brand purpose — which is how an organization tends to change the world for the better. Faced with climate change, pandemic, social injustice, war, and economic threats, people want more than a product, a paycheck, and a business with growth potential. They expect businesses to use their economic power and social influence for good.
Brand Purpose Creates Trust
When times are tough, people go to places of safety. We go to the places that are familiar and comfortable to weather the storm, because there is less risk in the things we know. This is true in our personal lives and in our professional lives. Our recent research shows that B2B buyers often seek safety over excellence when making purchase decisions. We also see that trust declines during times of economic turmoil.
Brands with purpose innately create trust because they activate care outside of things like sales — they commit to a cause that benefits all. If your goal is to be a trusted brand in good times and bad, then a consistent investment in brand purpose should be a priority of your 2023 planning.
The Risk Of Cutting Brand Investments
Building trust with brands doesn’t happen overnight. Trust increases over time and is a relationship of connection, credibility, and reliability. The long-term impact of cutting brand investments could take years to rebuild — that’s right: years. Here are some of the negative impacts of severing your brand investments:
- Sales decline due to lack of awareness, incorrect brand perceptions, and an increased need for credibility and trust.
- Your brand doesn’t make the shortlist because it’s been forgotten or people don’t understand your category or offers.
- Demand generation efforts produce less and require a higher investment because brand awareness has decreased.
- Customer renewal, cross-sell, and upsell rates decrease as customers leave for more relevant brands.
- Market category positioning suffers and you’re no longer viewed as a leader.
Why Invest In Brand Purpose
The debate over whether we’re in a recession has waged because of unusual conditions, such as the fact that unemployment remains low in the US and UK. Companies continue to vie for top talent, and employees desire to contribute to a broader cause. As you structure your plans for 2023, emulate the spend patterns of high-growth enterprise companies and make brand purpose a key priority.
Start by evaluating your brand’s purpose: the reason your company exists and the greater good it aspires to do in the world. Next, examine the real steps that it’s taking to accomplish those things. Avoid marketing spin that leads to unintended greenwashing and messaging that is not in alignment with your company’s behaviors. Understand the audiences you’re addressing and where the connections are between them and your brand purpose and how it applies during this time of uncertainty, then do the work to further the connection by speaking authentically through messaging and tactics deployed in applicable brand programs.