Recession Ready 

Amid the 2008 financial crisis, Craig Mawdsley, founding partner of strategy boutique Craig+Bridget, helped develop a campaign for Sainsbury’s that drastically improved price perception. He offers marketers three maxims to live by when times get tough

If you take a look at the Sainsbury’s website right now you will find a range of recipes, from Thai green curry to meatball pasta bake, that promise to Feed Your Family for a Fiver.

Here we are again. Fourteen years, six prime ministers and three Sainsbury’s slogans later.

It was 2008 and the financial crisis was just beginning to bite. My wonderful client Helen Buck [then head of brand communications at the supermarket] calls me and says she has been thinking about how we might adapt our award-winning Try Something New Today idea for tougher times. What about creating recipe ideas on a budget and calling it something like Feed Your Family for a Fiver (yes, the idea came from client to agency, not the other way round but that’s often how the best relationships work). It generated a campaign with a line that became more famous than Try Something New Today ever was, delivering £5.55 of profit for every media £1 spent on it and helping Sainsbury’s (often seen as one of the pricier supermarkets even before Lidl and Aldi arrived) weather a tough recession.

Little did we know that much tougher times would follow with headlines and data confirming that for individual family budgets, what’s happening right now will be much worse than the recession that followed the financial crisis. What should brands do in these circumstances? How can they position themselves for success and learn from what came before?

Experience suggests a few lessons:

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