The World: Insider's View - Germany

Panic too much in a downturn and you can fatally damage a brand's long-term prospects. It is vital, then, to keep one's nerve and come up with bold, resilient ideas.

In Germany, as in many other countries, fear is fast-growing. Crises can be seen everywhere, from the financial and automotive sectors to unemployment figures and the fast-growing gap between rich and poor.

Recession is written on the wall. Companies are struggling. Not every company, but a few more every day. So, imagine you're deciding about the communication budget of a bank. A car manufacturer. An oil company. Or whoever is next on the list.

Fear is a strong driver, especially if you are a marketing director. If you're anxious, you'll fear for your job. If you fear for your job, you'll try to keep a low profile. If you try to keep a low profile, you'll favour the mainstream. And that's the road to perdition - or mediocrity. Because mediocrity in good times is just mediocre. In bad times, it means nobody tries to stop the decline.

And from our saturated point of view, every change will be for the worse - because we have so much to lose and so little to gain.

Germany is the world's number one exporter. But what will happen to us if the world's consumers consume less? When Americans prefer German cars over their own brands, we're happy enough. But what if they prefer to buy no car at all?

We invented eco-consciousness - but what if it affects our industries and jobs? Isn't mediocrity just the safer option in every aspect?

No, it isn't. Because brands are developed in the long run. They need time to grow a seed in the customer's mind. And they need a vision. Advertise an idea and after a while you may have followers. Advertise a price reduction and you may have buyers today - but end up with nothing for tomorrow.

Ask the American car industry. That's why fear is a chance: when your competitors duck and cover, it's cheaper to be seen by prospective customers. An idea stands out even more in dull surroundings. And in times of uncertainty, people can find reassurance in brands. If you're hoping to harvest in the midterm instead of tomorrow, you should nourish your brands with bold creativity.

Don't ask your agency to cut prices by 10 per cent. Ask them to find solutions to how to get more out of every pound, euro or dollar spent. If your direct mail gets a 6 per cent return rate instead of 3 per cent, you just cut your cost of contact by half.

If your ad agency comes up with a surprising and effective idea for a 20-second TV commercial, you may reduce your TV budget by 33 per cent (and you get rid of the boring old 30-second vignette film).

If your ad agency is able to attract people to your website by using a new mobile technique, you may find that you can sell to people you have never thought of selling to before.So, is 2009 a year to fear? Certainly not for the brave.

- Mathias Jahn is the chief creative officer of DraftFCB Germany.

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