Advertising Digital Publishing
4 mins read

Navigating economic uncertainty: The publishers’ path to long-term brand authority and growth

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When market projections tell you to pull back, push ahead to capture your audience

For the first time since August, inflation has dropped to 8.7%. But, with the cost of living crisis continuing to be felt by businesses and consumers alike, economists are staying wary of future economic uncertainty. 

Despite this, the latest Advertising Association (AA) and WARC Expenditure Report found that the UK’s ad market grew by 8.8% to reach £34.8 billion last year. But, it also revealed that total ad spend across national and regional news as well as magazines fell by 1% from £1.9 billion in 2021 to £1.88 billion in 2021. 

Although print remains an important medium for many, it has experienced a prolonged decline, wherein the rise of digital editions and subscriptions has generally failed to compensate for the decrease in sales. 

With continued turbulence and economic uncertainty, a decline is forecast for 2023 and publishers are recognising that the subscription model is not enough to brave the storm until the predicted bounce back to 3.9% growth of ad revenue in 2024. 

The Power of Continued Marketing Investment 

Data from the start of the year suggests six in ten marketers are planning on cutting budgets. But, with interest rates set to stay high but stable for the foreseeable future, this percentage is likely to increase as everyone continues to feel the pinch. 

Although prioritising short-term savings may be crucial, businesses that continue investing in their brand’s share of voice through consistent marketing strategies ultimately achieve and see an

improvement in long-term profitability. Additionally, it gives brands the chance to stand out as an influential voice and to emerge bigger and stronger on the other side of the recession. 

The latest ONS spending stats show a rise of 0.5% in consumer spending, but this level of growth could be slowed by other macroeconomic challenges over the summer, like higher interest rates. With consumer spending still lower than before, business leaders often follow suit and cut back on costs with marketing budgets being the first to take the hit. Many research studies have confirmed that the best strategy is to continue marketing during a slowdown to capitalise on long-term ROI. 

Research by Kantar Millward Brown during the US 2008 financial crisis, found that 60% of the brands that “turned off the lights” to marketing by stopping all TV ad spend for six months saw brand use fall 24%, and brand image decrease 28%. 

Botify’s research demonstrates that once trust is built by a brand, 28% of UK and US consumers say they will stay loyal forever – through both good and bad times. Being able to build brand trust during economic uncertainty not only cements customer retention but builds loyalty, ensuring a steady stream of audience, exactly what brands need during this time. 

Paving the way through economic uncertainty 

Publishers have seen a growth in online news consumption, especially following the hit to newsstand sales during the pandemic. During economic struggles, such as inflation, recession and the current cost-of-living crisis, more than half (59%) of consumers prioritise price over whether they trust a brand and why understandably, they have moved toward cheaper or free ways to consume content. 

A great example of this is Conde Nast. Founded over a hundred years ago, it no longer thinks of itself as a magazine company as its audiences now predominantly interact with its brands through its websites and social media. This highlights the shift from pushing for sales of physical copies to battling it out to rank highest in online search results – as a result publishers need to focus on their brand authority and organic findability. Our recent research shows that nearly half (44.73%) of people agreed that they trust those brands that appear in top search results over sponsored or paid advertisements.

When it comes to consumers, website experience plays a crucial role in shaping their trust in a brand. To establish a strong connection, publishers should prioritise the thoughtful optimisation of their websites. The utmost emphasis should be placed on ensuring seamless navigation, which stands out as the primary factor (30%) influencing consumers’ perception. Equally significant is the accuracy and relevancy of the content (29%), which directly impacts users’ trust and engagement. Moreover, the diversity and range of available content and the swift loading times of web pages, both carrying equal weightage (15%), contribute significantly to creating a thoughtful and immersive browsing experience. 

Harnessing Search for Long-Term Impact 

Organic search is already capable of generating three times more return compared to traditional advertising campaigns. This not only enhances a brand’s ability to establish trust with customers but also boosts its revenue. As generative AI becomes more prominent in the search industry, brands should prioritise updating their content and improving their strategies to cater to all organic search interfaces, whether they are generative or web-based search results. 

Businesses that utilise AI capabilities for search not only increase their chances for more brand exposure but create the opportunity to build long-term brand awareness and authority amongst their target audiences, something that many brands are missing the mark on. 

Keep the lights on 

As history has proven, companies that maintain or double down on marketing budgets emerge more successful in the long run. This approach leads to a surge in opportunities, especially in growth and retention, enabling publishing brands to outperform competitors and capture market share on the other side of the recession. 

In other words, when market projections tell you to pull back, keep the lights on and push ahead to capture your audience.

Robert Rothschild
Chief Marketing Officer, Botify

Botify, a leading performance marketing platform for organic search, strengthens the digital brand experience by creating greater content findability. Using proprietary first-party data, Botify protects and scales organic web traffic by surfacing deeper insights and understanding behind hidden organic search ROI — offering intelligent opportunities to increase relevant search results, profitability and build better brand authority in parallel and at scale.