Editorial: Marcoms should learn from lessons of the past

Franklin Roosevelt's warning to a Depression-ravaged US that "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself" is as true today as it was three-quarters of a century ago.

Not least for a marcoms industry busy battening down the hatches for an economic storm whose length and ferocity nobody can predict. Naturally, it's hard for anybody to hold their nerve as pillars of the financial establishment tumble like ninepins and an estimated $67 billion is wiped off the value of the top 100 global brands.

What's more, it's safe to assume that the shotgun wedding between Lloyds TSB and HBOS will lead to a consolidation of the couple's advertising and marketing accounts and a loss to the industry of millions of pounds.

Of course, the challenge facing marcoms is a fleabite compared with the problems Roosevelt faced. Yet his warning about "nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyses needed efforts to convert retreat into advance" is as relevant today. A similar sentiment comes through in the recession-beating advice offered by 11 senior managers from across the industry in the feature on page 24. All have successfully navigated previous downturns and it's clear from their collective experiences is that staying calm and not being panicked into knee-jerk countermeasures is vital.

A theme running through what they say is that marcoms companies should be run as if a downturn is looming even if it isn't. Another is to cherish your people. Keep them up to speed with what's going on and don't take the easy option of chopping the activities that help sustain staff morale. That morale is bound to be under pressure as budgets get cut and work gets harder, but unless motivation can be maintained, nobody is going to come up with revenue-generating ideas.

Take your courage in both hands. Keep investing in talent even when siren voices scream at you to cut back. Make yourself an indispensable asset to clients and help them make the tough marketing calls. Stay cool, and you might come out of the tough spell in a better state than when you went in.

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