Customers are now, more than at other times, balancing the tension between the increasing cost of essentials and the emotional drivers of desiring treats and emotional satisfaction from what they buy.


Many business owners nursed their businesses through the pandemic, believing once people were not in isolation and beginning to return to everyday routine, the economy would pick up.

Rising interest rates and the difficulty of attracting staff are testing the resilience and endurance of business owners and businesses in new ways.

In the economic downturn, businesses that have invested in brand loyalty may find that investment keeps them afloat. In fact, some claim customer loyalty has become the most significant value for a business in a crisis. The economic downturn also provides an opportunity for companies to build brand loyalty. 


While politicians and economists may baulk at stating there is a recession for clients and consumers, it is the perception that counts. Rising interest rates and cost of living increases mean clients and customers are making decisions about:

  • Essentials – food, housing, clothing, transport, healthcare, and education.
  • Treats – which are indulgences whose immediate purchase is justifiable.
  • Postponables – these are desired items whose purchases can be delayed.
  • Expendables which are unnecessary or unjustifiable purchases.

How consumers view treats, postponables and expendables is always subjective and determined by emotions and how the person feels rather than concrete logical thinking.

Customers are now, more than at other times, balancing the tension between the increasing cost of essentials and the emotional drivers of desiring treats and emotional satisfaction from what they buy.

This tension allows businesses to further build brand loyalty with clients.


Building brand loyalty is possible if we:

  1. Review our current brand story.
  2. Pivot to a more nuanced brand story.
  3. Listen to clients.


An economic downturn is an excellent opportunity to review our current brand story. 


Your brand story is the story you use to sell your product or market your business. For example, when people buy perfume or cologne, they buy the experience of what the scent implies, be it summery or deep and masculine.

People buy cologne or perfume because they unconsciously believe the advertising story about what the scent or brand will give them. They are buying into the story, even though they may say they just like the smell of the perfume.

What is the story your brand is currently saying to clients? Is your story denying the reality of what most people are feeling? Is your brand story coming across as a sales pitch, or are you engaging and showing the human face of your company?

Forbes suggests some great questions to help us think the right way.

  • Why are customers attracted to our brand?
  • What sets us apart from others?
  • How do we assist clients in the first place?

These questions take us back to reviewing and considering our value proposition for clients. Often in the busyness of running and managing a business, we can lose sight of our core value proposition. In an economic downturn, we need to get back to basics more than ever.


It is easy to slip into a sales approach when business is going well. During an economic downturn, we need to dial back the sales talk and increase the human aspect of our business.

People need to see the human face of your business now more than ever. They need to know your company is also experiencing the same post-pandemic challenges they are experiencing. This is the time to cut back on the sales talk and provide empathic content that relates to what people are going through and is also helpful. This is an important point. It isn't just being empathetic; it is also providing valuable and practical information. This means your business needs to be listening to your customers and what are the challenges they are experiencing.

This is also when it is essential to share the stories of team members and how they are adjusting to the new normal. Involving staff and other team members is crucial for clients and building a sense of cohesion and ownership among the team. Businesses with greater buy-in from staff have a better chance of weathering downturns in the economy than businesses with disengaged staff.

It is easy in the uncertainty to withdraw as we try to manage the pressures and challenges. We need to stay human. To show that our brand is not uncaring or indifferent to what is happening around us. 


When clients are making subjective decisions about how they will spend their money on discretionary items, it is important businesses are actively engaged in social listening.

The key to adapting as a brand to changing circumstances is through social listening. This means being aware of how and why clients make decisions and using this information to guide your choices as a business.

Social listening is essential when developing a more nuanced brand story that relates to your client's interests and needs.

Using social listening helps answer questions like:

  • Where are clients drawing the line between essential and other types of expenditure?
  • What things may still be essential in the short term for customers?
  • What habits or trends may remerge that we need to prepare for?

Listening to clients enables you to deliver targeted messaging across your brand channels. This makes the most of your investments and creates trust and loyalty with your client or customer base.

Economic downturns can be unsettling and add to our anxiety and stress. Forbes states a critical component of staying afloat in turbulent times is keeping our cool, which, while easy to write, is more challenging to do.

It is easy to become reactive to the uncertainty around us. To make quick, impulsive decisions based on how we feel rather than allowing ourselves to collect valuable data and consider that in our decision-making. Using this period constructively will enable us to review and return to our point of difference from other brands where appropriate.

Reviewing our brand story allows us to re-emphasise our strengths, solutions, and uniqueness. Now is also the time to show the human face of our brand. To utilise our most important asset, the people who work in our teams and for us, and to allow them to engage with clients and customers in ways we can not. Now is the time to listen to our clients. Consider and reflect on what we are hearing to position our business for the future.