Marketing out of the downturn: True stories from the front lines

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As hopes for a fourth-quarter economic recovery evaporate like fog off a shuttered San Francisco dot-com, U.S. advertisers and their agencies have become a very skittish bunch. With few exceptions, all are struggling with diminished budgets, trying to divine the best place to spend their precious marketing dollars amid a seemingly endless supply of fear, uncertainty and doubt.

BtoB feels your pain.

In this issue, we inaugurate a multipart series on how b-to-b companies are attempting to market their way out of the downturn.

The first installment, "Branding: Is it worth it?," starts with a description of software maker SAS Institute, which bucked the trend by spending more on advertising in the first half of this year than during all of last year. But elsewhere, "The pendulum has swung against advertising spending with no immediate lead generation or sales payoff," writes contributing writer Sean Callahan, who interviewed many marketers, agencies and analysts for his report. Read this story, starting on Page 1, for a thorough look at the debate now raging for and against b-to-b branding.

In our Sept. 3 issue, we’ll look at companies that have reacted to the weak economy by adapting their creative approaches and media buying. This feature will coincide with our annual Special Report that profiles a dozen top media strategists. The Sept. 17 issue will round out the series with a look at companies that have turned to a variety of marketing technologies as a way out of the doldrums. That issue will include a Special Report highlighting key technologies marketers need to know about.

Integrated triumphs

It’s human nature to seek simple solutions, a single silver bullet that solves complex problems. While new Internet ad formats, interactive media, CRM software and media-buying strategies are important, not one of them is a panacea. Rather, it’s increasingly apparent that the heavy lifting, from a marketing standpoint, involves figuring out how to integrate diverse media and strategies.

This issue’s Special Report spotlights some of the very best integrated branding campaigns. For instance, Cisco Systems’ "Cisco Internet generation" campaign pushed its reputation as an "Internet expert" 250% higher than Microsoft’s and 500% higher than IBM’s and Lucent’s, according to Cisco’s own studies. Meanwhile, USG Corp., maker of Sheetrock drywall products, fought off the prospect of becoming a generic name by mounting a three-year blitz involving TV, print, radio and a NASCAR sponsorship.

Our Special Report, which begins on Page 19, is sure to suggest ways to improve your own integrated marketing efforts.

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