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Moving forward in a Purpose Recession

2 February, 2024

While it may sound counter-intuitive, the idea that companies should keep advertising during a recession is well established. Over a century’s worth of studies show that brands which maintain or grow their advertising budget during a downturn increase sales and market share, both during the downturn and following it.

Now, while we’re not currently in an economic recession, we think we are in a purpose recession. Gone are the days when it was hard to move for purpose-related marketing, as companies and brands jostled to show consumers their contribution to society. Instead, we have reticence and the desire to keep a low profile. Businesses have been spooked by high-profile backfires (think Bud Light), the growing crusade against ‘wokeness’ and the politicisation of ESG. Many now fear they will get as much outrage as praise for activity which positions them firmly on one side of the cultural dividing line.

In the face of this purpose recession, we think the lessons of advertising through economic recessions should be kept front of mind. Companies with a purpose, which believe in the power of business to make a difference, which have invested deeply in their approach to sustainability and understand the existential threat the climate crisis poses to their future, should not stand by and keep quiet. Not only should they keep taking action, they should also find ways to show people what they’re doing. This doesn’t mean doing what you might have done before. It’s not the time for a brand to talk in broad brush strokes about its vision for the world or make a splash about a target set for a decade in the future.  Instead, marketing in the purpose recession needs to focus on real, tangible action that happens now, with messaging that has a point beyond telling people about what you’re doing in the hope of a pat on the back.

The purpose recession gives you an opportunity to demonstrate what you can do for people in a way that will cut through and showcase the strength of your commitment. For more of our thinking on the story behind this and what to do next, click here, or even better get in touch.

By Larissa Persons

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