High ground for brands in a W-shaped recession

This is my first blog post for a few weeks, because I’ve been busy. I’ve actually been busier with pitches than I’ve been for more than a year. And quite evidently I am not alone. There’s something in the water I think.
It’s generally at this time of year that the pitches for the new year are well out of the way. We used to win our big accounts either just before Christmas or just before the other financial year starts in April. This year is different for us, and we’ve seen a surge in pitch work for eCRM actually happening in January. We think there’s a logical explanation for this, and it comes down to the great typographical recession debate that’s been going on for the past few months: is this a U, V or W-shaped recession?
If you are a marketer, then the past year of austerity has probably been quite trying. Selection for auditable marketing – eCRM and DM while a no brainer for some, has been held up by (respectively) lack of experience and expense. ECRM is cheap and responsive, works beautifully for retail and FMCG, and generates monetary returns, but very few companies have done it so in times of restriction and risk aversion new forays were rare. DM is proven and runs on the same principles as eCRM, but it’s extremely expensive and lumberingly slow (not to mention impossible to port directly to digital because it requires native digital community experience). The most logical path for marketers has therefore been difficult to take.
But a year without engaging consumers with either big budget media or small budget retention marketing is dangerous. Smaller nimbler brands can operate with startup mentality and gain a disproportionate step up. A year after budgets stopped, a year during which eCRM has proven itself with spectacular achievements for foresightful adopters, marketing budget holders are facing a situation where we’re either in recovery having reached the other side of the V or U, or at the very least on a temporary island in the middle of the W.
It’s time to re-engage with customers and at the very least reinvigorate relationships with them. If it’s the W then there’s a window of opportunity. If we’re out of recession (and personally I find it difficult to believe there won’t be a backwash from the debt that’s been stacked up to facilitate quantitative easing – let alone the poke in the eye that repairing the country’s potholes is about to deliver), then it’s time to spend. And clients are doing just that. Cautiously to be sure, and only on things that can be proven to work.
Marketers have been dabbling in eCRM. It’s now time to take the plunge. The worst that can happen is that it does turn out to be W-shaped, but brands will have reconnected with customers at a critical time to ensure they stay brand loyal during the next leg of hardship. The best that can happen is that the process of spinning up extraordinary loyalty early means a spectacular resurgence in sales.