When businesses go into survival mode it’s natural for expenditure to be cut, unfortunately the marketing budget is often the first to go! But challenging times can prove to be the right time to invest in brand salience.

Brand salience is the degree by which your brand is thought of or noticed by consumers when they make a purchase decision. Is your business top of mind when your target customer is making that purchase?

There are many examples of famous brands that started in fragile times, including Walt Disney Entertainment in 1923, followed by Penguin Books in 1935. In 1975, Microsoft Computer Software launched, with Sage Accounting Software following suit in 1981, and more recently both WhatsApp and Uber in 2009.

How do you ensure your brand not only survives but thrives during economic uncertainly? Brand salience comes down to 4 areas, trust, relevance, difference, and people.


In uncertain times consumers will be concerned with job security and finances, a proven track record gives confidence to consumers. Loyalty is born out of trust; you must follow through on your promises. A long history reminds consumers that the brand has weathered the storm before, after the credit crunch of 2008 we saw household brands capitalising on the brand’s salience, famously the Hovis boy got back on his bike, the Milky Bar Kid got ‘strong and tough’ again and Persil hailed a video montage to the last 50 years of advertising.

The key to the popularity of these durable advertising campaigns was that they exercised a ‘feel good’ factor and prompted memories of better times.

At times of economic crises, shoppers don’t always buy cheaper brands; but choose fewer premium ones.

“In 2009, Heinz re-launched the ‘Beanz Meanz Heinz’ campaign. The baked beans brand predicted that shoppers might be tempted to buy cheaper supermarket alternatives, so they asserted their brand with a familiar campaign.”


A relevant brand stands for something that connects with the consumer and is applicable to their lives. It’s a harsh reality that in a weaker economy brands that are past their sell-by date will ultimately not survive. In each recession, we see once-popular high street names get consigned to the history books like Woolworths and MFI. More recently we have witnessed the collapse of BHS, Maplins and now Laura Ashley.


Think differently and celebrate the differences that make your brand stand apart from your market competitors. Express clarity and vision to communicate what makes you special and the value to your customers. Create demand by giving people what they didn’t know they needed but cannot imagine ever having lived without. New products, services and brands can stimulate demand and sales.


Invest in your people and treat them well, it is an investment that pays you back tenfold! Positive employees make positive customer experiences. In a service-based business, it is the employees who represent the brand to customers and the staff will be tested to realise the brand promise. Happy staff are essential for a brand that depends on good customer service.


As we mentioned early in the article some of the world’s most famous brands started in a recession or downward market. It seems businesses that can survive and thrive in the face of uncertainty have the roots for exponential growth when times are good!

What lessons are learnt during uncertain times?

  • Resourcefulness – you must get creative when opportunities and funds are scarce.
  • Commitment – you must be able to thrive under pressure and have a shared vision that your team buys into.
  • Timing – Ask any seasoned investor and they will tell you millionaires are made in recessions; a business started in challenging times is primed for growth when the good times return.

The smart entrepreneur builds their brand when times are tough to reap the rewards later!