3 Ways Brands Can Work With Influencers to Recession-Proof Their Image

Working with actual humans is a good way to come across as more authentic

a person standing on a pile of books putting a blog into a building as one person stands nearby and another sits nearby on a laptop
Influencers can help brands through the recession, if used in the right way. Getty Images

Chances are that if you’re not actively planning or already executing your Covid-19 pivot, you’re determining how the recession is going to impact future campaign plans for annual events like summer sales to back-to-school.

We’re entering a low point in our economy. For select businesses, history reflects that keeping ad spend up during a recession is the best practice. It also reflects that relegating that ad spend to road-tested verticals like TV is the way to go.

But is it?

With a collective spending power of $1.4 trillion, millennials wield the greatest buying power. Even before the recession, millennials cut cable subscriptions and flocked to SVODS to enjoy their entertainment without commercial interruption.

As traditional television viewership declines, social media consumption skyrockets upward. TechCrunch reported that Facebook and Instagram enjoyed a 40% spike mid-March because of Covid-19, potentially setting a precedent for recession use levels. Social media, now inextricably woven into our daily lives from at-home workouts to kids’ storytime, incubated an industry poised to become infinitely more mainstream during recession: influencer marketing.

Influencer marketing, a practice that didn’t even exist during the Great Recession, presents a solid case for mainstream adoption. The appetite for influencers is growing. Influencers can efficiently deploy recession-friendly messaging for any audience with authenticity, and consumers spend more time on social media. With this in mind, focusing on influencers during a recession might be the most practical move to best serve your brand.

Influencers can efficiently deploy recession-friendly messaging for any audience with authenticity.

Here are three reasons why influencers should be in your marketing plan during a recession:

Efficiency in content and media

Even in the best of times, you need to stretch your budget. During a recession, however, your money needs to go even farther. Influencers are incredibly efficient at creating content ranging from static images and short-form social video to paid media assets like television. Not only is it cost efficient, but influencer content in social ads also outperforms other content.

Social Media Today reported that for brands, “influencer-generated assets performed the same or better than their own branded content.” During a recession, creating cost-efficient content that produces better results is a solid, valuable use of reduced spend.

Driving purchase decisions

In times of uncertainty, consumers want to find that voice that they can trust for real-life purchase decisions. Study after study has shown that consumers trust their favorite influencers as much—and sometimes more than—their friends and family. In a world that’s more socially distanced, influencers are a word-of-mouth megaphone. Leveraging an influencer can not only grow awareness but could also change consumers’ product perception, driving consideration even among evolving social norms precipitated by a recession.

We know that consumers are circumspect in their spending, which we exhibit even more during a downturn. Marketers need to rethink what tools they use to impact consumer opinion and product consideration, which is more purpose-driven during a recession. From a content perspective, influencers are the masters of functional demo entertainment content, such as unboxings, tutorials, hacks and listicles that provide consumers the value they need while retaining consumers’ attention significantly longer than the average social ad.

Launching and building brands

Recession consumers continue to buy familiar products, but how do you launch a new brand or build equity in an existing brand with a reduced budget?

Brands have long used celebrity endorsement deals to launch products. These longstanding partnerships made a celebrity’s stardom and products equally inextricable. We see this with Michael Jordan and Nike, Oprah and WW and Matthew McConaughey and Lincoln. These deals have been so successful that celebrities themselves are launching their own brands.

What marketers are missing is the endorsement value working with influencers can bring. Most brand and influencer relationships are one-offs, which aren’t as beneficial for either party. By establishing a long-term brand and influencer relationship, like iJustine and Apple or David Dobrik and Chipotle. Especially during a recession, you’re getting the biggest benefit of influencer marketing by building the equity of your brand through influencer endorsement.

This approach may not work for every brand, but during times like this, leaning into a new tactic can be a brand’s best path to success. Brands need to be more human when communicating to their consumers, and that’s especially true now. And there really is no better way to do that than with actual humans.


Gabe Gordon is the founder of Reach Agency.
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