Tips for marketing in uncertain times

The co-founder of branding agency Defiant gives some key tips on thriving during moments of crisis, from looking to the past to the power of humor.
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When it comes to business, there's often a tendency to obsess over the future and focus on the next big thing. But you can learn a lot from the past, especially in times of uncertainty. That's according to Defiant, a brand strategy and marketing agency, which has conducted research into how brands of the past have reacted to – and made the most out of – historic crises. Will Poskett, Defiant's co-founder and a marketing veteran, shares three things the team found out.

1. Cope through creativity. ‘Creativity is useful in good times and essential in uncertain times. Studies have shown that creativity is a powerful force that helps relieve depression and build more resilient communities. Throughout history, we've seen people turn to creativity as a means of coping – whether it be dance marathons during the Great Depression or embracing new creative hobbies during lockdown.’

• Brands doing it well. Will highlights supermarket chain Tesco as one brand that's successfully tapping into this trend, despite not being known for its creativity. In 2022, the retail giant asked the British public to show off their creative sides by holding auditions to become the official voice of their checkouts. 

2. Embrace the power of the past. ‘In times of uncertainty, people crave the certainty of the past. Research reveals that the past is a powerful force that both comforts us and helps us cope in times of uncertainty. We also discovered that people are willing to spend more on brands that remind them of the past.’

• Brands doing it well. Video game company Nintendo is a master at this, constantly re-releasing its greatest games and consoles from days gone by, says Will. 

3. Find hope through humor. ‘People don't want to be reminded of a crisis. Instead, they seek humor to help them forget and feel hopeful. Brands should aim to make consumers smile by being more carefree and irreverent in their communications.’

• Brands doing it well. One of the breakthrough brands of 2022 was canned-water company Liquid Death, which ‘scaled quickly thanks to its hilarious ads, content and iconic branding’, Will says.

These are just three of the many trends that Defiant uncovered in its 2023 report, which you can download for free.

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