Marketing in Age of Turbulence

The severe economic recession of 2008–2009 caused marketers to rethink best practices of management. Philip Kotler and John Caslione see management entering a new Age of Turbulence in which chaos, risk, and uncertainty characterize many industries, markets, and companies. According to them, turbulence is the new normal, punctuated by periodic and intermittent spurts of prosperity and downturn—including extended downturns amounting to recession, or even depression. They  see many new challenges in the foreseeable future, and unlike past recessions, there may be no assurance that a return to past management practices would ever be successful again.

According to Kotler and Caslione, marketers should always be ready to activate automatic responses when turbulence whips up and chaos reigns in. They recommend marketers keep these eight factors in mind as they create “chaotics marketing strategies.”

1.    Secure your market share from core customer segments.

This is not a time to get greedy, so get your core customer segments firmly secured, and be prepared to ward off attacks from competitors seeking your most profitable and loyal customers.

2.    Push aggressively for greater market share from competitors.

All companies fight for market share, and in turbulent and chaotic times, many have been weakened. Slashing marketing budgets and sales travel expenses is a sure sign a competitor is buckling under pressure. Push aggressively to add to your core customer segments at the expense of your weakened competitors.

3.    Research customers more now, because their needs and wants are in flux.

Everyone is under pressure during times of turbulence and chaos, and all customers—even those in your core segments whom you know so well—are changing. Stay close to them as never before. Research them more than ever. Don’t find yourself using old, tried-and-true marketing messages that no longer resonate with them.

4.    Minimally maintain, but seek to increase, your marketing budget.

With your competitors aggressively marketing to your core customers, this is the worst time to think about cutting anything in your marketing budget that targets them. In fact, you need to add to it, or take money away from forays into totally new customer segments. It’s time to secure the home front.

5.    Focus on all that’s safe and emphasize core values.

When turbulence is scaring everyone in the market, most customers flee to higher ground. They need to feel the safety and security of your company and your products and services. Do everything possible to tell them that continuing to do business with you is safe, and to sell them products and services that keep making them feel safe.

6.    Drop programs that aren’t working for you quickly.

Your marketing budgets will always be scrutinized, in good times and bad times. If anyone is to cut one of your programs, let it be you, before anyone else spots any ineffective ones. If you’re not watching, rest assured someone else is, including your peers whose budgets couldn’t be protected from the axe.

7. Don’t discount your best brands.

Discounting your established and most successful brands tells the market two things: your prices were too high before, and your products won’t be worth the price in the future once the discounts are gone. If you want to appeal to more frugal customers, create a new brand with lower prices. This lets value-conscious customers stay close to you, without alienating those still willing to pay for your higher-priced brands. Once the turbulence subsides, you may consider discontinuing the value product line—or not.

8.    Save the strong; lose the weak.

In turbulent markets, your strongest brands and products must become even stronger. There’s no time or money to be wasted on marginal brands or products that lack strong value propositions and a solid customer base. Appeal to safety and value to reinforce strong brands and product and service offerings. Remember, your brands can never be strong enough, especially against the waves of a turbulent economy.


Source: Based on Philip Kotler and John A. Caslione, Chaotics: The Business and Marketing in the Age of Turbulence (New York: AMACOM, 2009) pp. 151–153


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