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Uncertain times: Leveraging marketing to engage customers and drive value

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Executives reveal how to navigate an economic downturn through investing in your brand and hyper-personalization.

In brief
  • Amid economic uncertainty, marketing may be more valuable than in a healthy economy.
  • Companies that engage with customers consistently can drive long-term value by offering customers hyper-personalized products and experiences.
  • Customers may be more willing to engage with companies when they have control of what data they share and how it’s used.

Cheddar News caught up with Janet Balis, EY Americas Marketing Practice Leader, Charisse Hughes, Kellogg’s Chief Marketing Officer, and Brian Moore, EY Americas Tech Transformation and Trusted Intelligence Leader, at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas to hear their perspectives on investing in your brand and hyper-personalization.

Investing in your brand

Many companies are focused on a potential recession right now, but underinvesting in your brand might not be the right move, according to Janet Balis, EY Americas Marketing Practice Leader.

Crisis does not mean that we should immediately focus on cuts.

“We’ve learned from the pandemic that it’s really important to invest in the drivers of revenue and growth,” Balis said in an interview with Cheddar News.

Balis said a lot of companies underinvested during the last recession and struggled to come back from it.

“It was incredibly expensive for them to win those customers back,” she said. “It’s much easier to keep the customers you have than try to buy them back later.”

As some companies start to make cuts, such as with advertising spend, Balis said there is an opportunity to stand out in the market.

“As people exit during the economic downturn, there are going to be a lot of opportunities to buy media and market more effectively than ever before,” she said.

Kellogg’s Chief Marketing Officer Charisse Hughes agreed with Balis about investing in marketing now.

“We, as Janet said, believe that advertising impact increases during a recession because there’s less noise in the marketplace,” Hughes said. “We would hate to cede our brands to our competitors, so we’re doubling down on investing with our brands. This is the perfect time for us to continue to win share.”

The rise of hyper-personalization

People are changing how they spend their time — and how they spend their money. In the most recent EY Future Consumer Index, 56% of respondents said they will reappraise how they spend their time on the things they most value. As people’s preferences change, brands and retailers should engage with their customers frequently, according to Brian Moore, EY Americas Tech Transformation and Trusted Intelligence Leader.

“The customer value equation is constantly changing,” Moore said to Cheddar News. “Brands and retailers that are looking at that customer value equation constantly and consistently can drive a differentiated experience for their consumers.”

Now is the time for companies to interact with all the data they’ve collected, Moore said.

One of the things that we’ve learned is that we have too much data and not enough connection.

Companies can drive long-term value when they responsibly manage and use data to personalize their products for consumers.

When customers opt in to share their data – data they’re comfortable sharing – they can tell brands and retailers what data they want to share and how they want it used.

“Trust and transparency in that data collection and how it’s used is paramount to build that consumer confidence,” he said.

Moore shared a personal example of how hyper-personalization worked in a recent interaction his family had with a brand.

“My son was training for a large event … [and] he had an equipment malfunction,” Moore said. “I sent a picture to the manufacturer. They overnighted the equipment to us and attached a note that said, ‘Best of luck on your upcoming competition.’ I didn’t tell them about the competition, but they knew through data that they had, the sports niche company, on the upcoming competitions and my son, who was registered to compete. That generated a lot of brand affinity for my son and myself and will probably result in a lifetime value increase for them.”


In times of economic uncertainty, marketing can be an invaluable tool for companies that want to build long-term customer loyalty. By engaging with customers and offering them personalized products and experiences, companies can ensure that customers will remain engaged even when the economy is unstable. Customers are also more likely to participate in marketing activities if they are given control over the data they share and how it is used. With the right approach and strategy, companies can use marketing to build trust and loyalty with their customers, even in uncertain times.

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