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Navigating a recession: The importance of market research and brand investment

Tram Nguyen
January 30, 2023

It’s difficult forecasting the future in one of the world’s most rapidly changing regions and the last three years certainly helped make that point - as unexpected events on the world stage made our best attempts at futurism seem futile—from Covid-19 in 2020, to unrest in Myanmar, Afghanistan and Ukraine, they have abruptly shuffled the economic deck for countries throughout Asia in 2022.

As investors are rejoicing at the possibility of inflation reaching its peak and the potential of a smooth landing, this earnings season is expected to reveal that there are still many factors that should cause them concern.

Our regional Milieu Insight research has shown that recession-challenged consumers are buying less, looking for deals, or switching to different brands, product categories, or stores. Some are even changing long-held attitudes toward consumption. To many, filling the home with even more stuff or keeping up with the Kardashians is no longer appealing.

According to Harvard Business Review, spending on market research dipped for four straight quarters during the Great Recession by May 2009. Larger companies sought to specifically cut research spending by as much as 20%.  

In growth times, a rising wave of consumption can compensate for less than optimal branding, pricing, positioning or segmentation. That is certainly not the case now. At the same time that marketers must clip research expenses, they face added pressure to secure high-quality data and insights.

It’s about the right investment at the right time

This is why when it comes to times of recession, careful and accurate planning can play a pivotal role in making it through hard economic times.  While some businesses may be cautiously saving money, it’s critical to maintain control, confidence, and profit during recessions — you just need the right investment at the right time.  It may sound counterintuitive at first, but companies can truly maximise their profitability during a recession by more thoroughly understanding the changes that a recession causes in their target market.  

Confidently execute precise pivots

In theory, the benefits of market research during a recession are the same as the benefits of market research during a period of growth. But during a recession, you may (almost definitely) have fewer resources with which to work than you have during a period of growth.  

This means any pivot in strategy or tactics is a bigger risk. If you don’t earn / see an ROI on a certain initiative, then you can’t be sure that another initiative will pick up the slack. With market research, you can identify the precise area of a business that needs to pivot and — more importantly — what change(s) to make.  Unlike a blind guess, you can make these decisions with a stronger degree of confidence because you have the research to show that it’s a viable idea.  

Fortunately, Milieu Insight provides research tools that exist for this exact purpose! 

While your competitors spend months talking about cutbacks and layoffs, you can charge to the forefront of your industry by releasing new products that are most likely to find success based on real consumer feedback - consumer research tools like Milieu Canvas provides you with millions of pre-collected consumer data points which you can access at anytime.

Milieu’s always-on data processing engine is collecting consumer data right at this moment, enabling quick decision making based on the latest, most accurate insights. Some of our Portraits data include financial situation outlook, consumer spending habits and how these are affected by the health of the economy. Check out some examples below:

Another powerful tool that our platform has is the flexibility to further segment the data by  consumer demographics of choice - this is one of the most intelligent and cost-effective investments a company can make — even when the rest of the business world is making cutbacks.

Invest in your brand

While the term "recession" may be unsettling for business owners, reacting to it by cutting prices, pausing product development and hoarding budgets, may not be a good idea. Here's the unfortunate truth: Reacting—rather than taking a proactive approach—can hurt you. Investing in your brand awareness offers multiple benefits during downturn times by increasing the effectiveness of marketing campaigns and lowering costs. A successful brand awareness campaign can strengthen customer loyalty, increase the effectiveness of your ad campaigns, and make it easier to start conversations with potential leads.  With Milieu’s one-stop platform, you can measure ad effectiveness and how your customers are connecting with your brand and derive actionable insights for your future branding efforts. 

Innovate to stay ahead

The biggest challenge facing companies is knowing where to allocate limited resources. Before making big strategic decisions, companies should conduct research to understand changes in the market. Keeping your brand, products and services relevant is crucial by reconsidering your offerings and value propositions - The focus should be on establishing leading indicators and you may seamlessly utilise product concept testing, and concept testing surveys by evaluating the overall performance of your existing product, marketing campaigns and messaging.  And with innovation testing, you can test new product developments, business and value propositions.  

Let’s discuss your next research project 

Milieu’s comprehensive research solutions are designed to answer your questions with uncompromising speed, ease and quality. From instant access to thousands of consumer profiles across Southeast Asia, quick-launch studies to in-depth custom research studies, let us help you make data-driven decisions with unparalleled precision. Get in touch with us here