Don’t panic: now’s the time to double down on your marketing efforts


sabri subay, of King Kong, on marketing during a recession

Sabri Suby, founder of King Kong agency

Expert | Featured

By Sabri Suby

Sabri Suby of King Kong agency discusses how businesses can rebound from recessions and, perhaps controversially, how important marketing is during times of economic difficulty.


As businesses around the world wake up to the challenges of the ongoing global health emergency, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the situation. But don’t let fear get the better of you, because now’s the perfect time for business leaders to step up their game.

During an economic contraction, the companies that thrive are the ones that refuse to contract with the economy. As Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, famously said: “I was asked what I thought about the recession. I thought about it and decided not to take part.”

Take Conrad Hilton, who bought up hotels during the Great Depression, confident that a boom had to follow. He saw where the money would be arriving and acted accordingly. He did not, incidentally, have a mountain of research assembled by MBAs and consultancies to base his future vision on. Had he waited for that, he’d have been too late.

In the 1920s, Post was the category leader in the ready-to-eat cereal category. During the Great Depression, Post cut back significantly its advertising budget and rival Kellogg’s doubled its advertising spend, investing heavily in radio and introducing a new cereal called Rice Krispies, featuring Snap, Crackle and Pop. Kellogg’s profits grew by 30% and the company became the category leader, a position it has maintained for decades.

As recently as 2009, Amazon’s sales grew by 28% during the GFC thanks to its innovative new products, most notably its new Kindle products. On Christmas Day 2009, Amazon customers bought more ebooks than printed books – a world first at the time. As a result, in the minds of consumers, Amazon became an innovative company by introducing a lower-cost alternative to cash-strapped consumers.

Dial up when others are dialling down

U.S. traffic from Facebook to other websites increased by 50% within the past week, according to an internal Facebook report obtained by the New York Times. There’s no doubt that similar statistics are true elsewhere too.

People are clearly looking for solutions to their problems, and as your competitors contract in fear, now is the time to push forward and be very aggressive with your marketing because you can get those eyeballs for cheaper, get better cut through and a bigger share of voice.

The emphasis now needs to be on building prospects and engineering a sales funnel that’s not focused on immediate conversion. People may not be buying right now but they are certainly researching, and when the crisis blows over, they certainly will be buying.

This is a great time to put out information and nurture a list of prospects that are great candidates for what you sell. And then when things do blow over, the economy does snap back, you’re going to be in a position where you’ve developed a relationship. When they’re ready to buy, who do you think they’re going to buy from?

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Maintain a strong mind and body

News channels are a business in themself: the business of really extracting as much attention as they possibly can. You don’t want to be oblivious to what’s going on around you, but schedule time for news and limit yourself to the amount of news that you’re consuming. It could be a 10 to 15-minute diet of how much news you want to consume in your day.

Instead of being in a reactive, news-hungry state, get on the front foot and invest in bettering yourself and bettering your business. Buy courses, buy books, make sure that you’re still actively exercising, and keep yourself in that positive frame of mind, because this too shall pass.

History has given us examples of many businesses that emerge stronger from testing times are those who have looked for opportunities instead of looking at challenges. They’re the ones that always come out the other end in a much stronger position while everybody else is stuck in panic mode.

Do not stop advertising and marketing, because if you do, you’re restricting the oxygen that forms new sales, new customers and revenue. And whatever you do, don’t let the fear and uncertainty phrase you. Lyft, Uber, Pinterest and Slack were formed or hit their stride around the time of the last global financial crisis – and there’s no reason your business can’t become the world’s next crisis success story.


Sabri Suby is the founder of Australia’s fastest-growing digital marketing agency, King Kong, and author of international bestseller Sell Like Crazy.

Having originally founded King Kong in 2014 from his bedroom, Sabri has bootstrapped the company since day one and in under five years has successfully built a team of 61 specialists now achieving $20million+ in total revenue (year to date). As a pioneer in the digital marketing arena, his business has impacted 250,000 businesses in 42 different countries, and has generated in excess of $1.33 billion in sales for him and his clients.

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