A time to act

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Which business decision makers will look smarter when the economy turns? Those that simply do what it takes to prop up the bottom line today, and stop there, or those that position their companies and their products for the future?

For marketers, we hope the answer is clear. For all but the weakest, there will be a tomorrow. Success tomorrow demands that brands be supported today and that investment continue on promising new-product ideas. Brand building and product launches in a "down" economy? Yes, because it can work, and work well.

For example, it's a hard time for magazine publishers. Costs are up and ad sales are soft for many if not most. Yet we reported last week that a spate of new consumer titles are coming out. Playing in what's always a risky business, publishers know that the right editorial concept can nevertheless establish a beachhead with readers even when ad pages may be hard to find. In recession year 1991, smart marketing helped Time Inc.'s struggling Entertainment Weekly take off. Gannett Co. started USA Today during another recession 19 years ago this week.

Like other veteran observers of the marketing scene, retired Interpublic Group of Cos. Chairman Phil Geier has seen marketers "run for cover" in other downturns. His letter to the editor on this page sees opportunity where others see retrenchment, and chronicles real marketplace shifts that happened when businesses acted on their plans in a down economy.

In every downturn, companies with good ideas, good products and the willingness to support them end up looking smarter than those whose idea of strategy in a recession never gets beyond seeking cover.

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