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Why brands can’t afford to cut marketing and PR budgets

And so, it begins. Meta, owners of Facebook, last month announced cuts to its marketing budget following a fall in fourth-quarter profits. The business has described 2023 as its “year of efficiency”, slashing both marketing spend, and personnel, as it faces headwinds. Global brand Peloton, the spin bike specialist, has also reduced its investment in sales and marketing. The company insists it is still seeking growth despite its decision.

There’s no doubt times are tight, and it’s a difficult, uncertain world out there. But does taking the axe to marketing really help in the long run?

Being a marketing communications agency employee, of course you’d expect me to disagree with this strategy - if I didn’t it would be like turkeys voting for Christmas.

However, we also have the recent experience of the pandemic to learn from; and what is clear is that the brands that continued to communicate were the ones that continued to thrive.

PR wins customers

Who can forget the brilliant viral meme in which Weetabix was paired with Heinz baked beans? After the cereal brand posted a picture of Weetabix covered in baked beans on Twitter two years ago, a host of other leading brands joined in the fun, commenting on the cheeky Tweet which was also discussed on This Morning, and even referenced in the House of Commons.

According to Weetabix the Beanz on Bix campaign increased spontaneous brand awareness by 40% compared with the previous year and, most crucially of all, boosted sales by 15% on Valentine’s weekend.

Low-fi, low-budget and simple, the Beanz on Bix campaign has little in common with the million and even billion-dollar marketing initiatives favoured by Meta and Peleton. There is, nevertheless, a lesson to learn.

Building loyalty

Marketing and comms isn’t just about selling stuff. It is about building relationships, trust, and loyalty; and when brands go quiet on their customers, or indeed their intended customers, it soon becomes noticeable. Engagement can’t be switched on and off like a tap.

Let’s put it another way. If you were looking for love, and found a special someone, you wouldn’t take your foot off the gas after a few chat-up lines. The next step would be to go on a few dates and get to know each other. Developing a successful relationship takes time, and it’s easy to undo your good work through neglect.

Reputation matters

It is also important to consider reputation. According to global research carried out with C-suite respondents last year, 72% of business leaders see reputation as a stronger driver of business performance than margin over the next five years. Community, relationships, loyalty, and trust - the drivers of a positive reputation - can’t be bought. They must be earned, nourished, and grown. Can you afford not to invest in marketing?

Our agency has survived several economic downturns including most recently the pandemic, and we understand businesses will be making tough decisions over their budgets. We know that activity must be meaningful and focused on results, but making cuts to PR and marketing budgets is shortsighted in these difficult times.

Written by Charlene Sweeney, media relations director at marketin consultancy BIG Partnership

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