BY Santosh Shrestha
Economic recession has become a buzzword in our society today. From the local tea shop to the supermarket, and from the ward office to the Prime Minister’s Office, there is no one who hasn't heard this term. At a quick glance, our economy, battered by the 2015 earthquakes, and further by the sudden onslaught of the Corona epidemic, was already teetering on the edge of recession. For a developing country like ours, plagued by poor governance, this was a luxury we couldn't afford. Now, it has hit rock bottom due to the widespread repercussions of the recession. Apart from natural disasters, this situation has arisen due to various factors ranging from local to international trade, and the government’s lack of preparedness for such adversities.
An economic recession, which directly affects the purchasing power of the common man, inevitably trickles down to affect every business sector. The morale of both the government and private sector has been very low for a considerable period, with unfortunate incidents taking a toll on our collective mental health. But there is no simple way out of this recession. Engaging in business inherently means selling one's goods and services to consumers. While there could be multiple goals apart from profit-making through sales, none of these objectives can be realised without sales.
Advertising is considered an investment rather than an expense. Advertising plays a big role in increasing sales based on the preferences of the general consumer. The fundamental principle of marketing is very simple: if sales are low, advertise more and advertise well. How many of us would agree that advertising during a recession actually improves sales? The renowned scientist, Stephen Hawking, stated, "Even in difficult situations, something good can be done and success can be achieved." But some entrepreneurs blame the difficult situation only and fail. If one aims to boost sales, advertising is beneficial in any circumstance. Theremore, following the adage, "when times are good you should advertise, when times are bad you must advertise," seems prudent. The most appropriate time to inform consumers about your goods and services through advertising is now and today. It is now that many businessmen can easily influence the market when their competitors are not advertising. Just as it takes more time and effort to reach the destination during traffic jams, in the same way, when everyone is advertising, it is not easy to influence the market. Recession reduces purchasing power of consumers, but does not totally eliminate it. Consumers still make purchases, albeit on a reduced scale, after meticulous consideration. Given a plethora of options and limited buying capacity, advertising becomes even more critical to differentiate oneself from rival brands. Thus, advertising seems rational in the current circumstances, even when abiding by the adage "new in nine days, old in twenty days." Remember, advertising only when circumstances seem ideal may cause your target audience to forget you sooner than expected.
Quoting the renowned author Shiv Khera from his book "Winners don't do different things, they just do things in a different way." The nuances of how and when to advertise are extensive. Timing, in particular, plays a pivotal role in maximising the effectiveness of an advertisement and its impact on the market. Some businessmen do not fully understand the importance and relevance of advertising which is why they invest less towards make a good advertisement, do not use effective media, do not advertise as much as they should, allocate less money for the overall advertisement, do not spend the advertising money on time, stop advertising first during the recession and consider the advertising money as savings. This misstep can spell disaster for their businesses in the long run. As Henry Ford, the celebrated industrialist and Ford Company founder, aptly noted, "Not advertising to save money is like stopping the clock to stop time."
There's an abundance of instances where products or entire brands have vanished from the market due to insufficient promotion. Often, this results from a failure to acknowledge that a brand can fade from memory within days if not adequately promoted. Nowadays, there are many examples where many businessmen are in trouble, because in order to save money they rely heavily on just social media advertising. Although Facebook advertising works wonders for some, especially for those who have started small and have a small target group, it might not prove effective for all types of goods and services. The number of business people who have had a bad experience because of giving priority to digital media only is increasing day by day. Mainstream media such as TV, radio, and newspapers maintain a devoted following due to their unparalleled credibility and relevance compared to the nascent digital platforms. This credibility and trust might remain elusive for digital media in the foreseeable future.
Many products and services are slowly vanishing from the market because consumers do not give even two seconds to digital media advertisements. Consequently, they often go unnoticed. Therefore, it is important to have a good understanding of the fact that the effectiveness of advertising will increase only by decoding the right balance between traditional media and digital media. There are many examples of businesses resorting to low-cost TikTok ads in the hopes of achieving viral success. This approach, however, confuses consumers and society at large while adversely impacting business reputation. This unchecked growth has urged the Nepal Advertising Board, the regulatory body of advertising, to take action to monitor and curb this unhealthy practice. Therefore, if the businessmen understand the importance of advertisement and take proper consultation from the creators and experts of the advertisement sector and create planned out and well-integrated advertisements by using all 360-degree media platforms, there is a very good chance they can do good business even during this recession.
The importance of advertising has increased even more in the context of ever-shifting consumer behaviour, an open market economy, global expansion, escalating competition, and the proliferation of mass communication channels rendering the market more challenging. Employing a long-term advertising strategy that isn't fixated solely on short-term sales can bolster a product's reputation and ensure market dominance for a longer period of time. In the current scenario when there is not so much competition in advertising, focusing on brand development with a long-term thinking can unlock the code to enduring success.
(Shrestha is a former president of Nepal Advertising Association as well as Managing Director of Mars Advertising and Research, and a communication expert. He can be reached for comments at [email protected])