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Marketers discuss economy

The Knoxville chapters of the American Marketing Associa-tion and the American Advertising Federation met for a roundtable discussion on marketing in an economic downturn Wednesday, March 11.

Moderator and marketing professor at The University of Tennessee Mark Moon, asked the roundtable experts how the economic crunch has affected marketing demand, and how businesses were handling it.

“Marketing equals demand, as far as I’m concerned … and we’ve all seen demand for many of our products and services deteriorating as the economic crisis deepens,” Moon said.

Matt Fischer, chief creative officer and chief operating officer of WonderGroup, with clients such as Kraft, AT&T and Starbucks, said he would provide a “macro” look at the current marketing situation, outside the economic crunch.

“Looking at it from 30,000 feet, you’d have to say this is the greatest change period we’ve ever seen in our professional lives,” Fischer said.

“Traditional media models have been turned on their heads and consumers are in control,” he said, mentioning blogs, Facebook and other web-based media as driving the changes in marketing.

Marketers have been accustomed to one-way communication through traditional media such as radio, television and newspapers, Fischer said, but the current trend is interaction.

“Now we have the Internet, invented by the people, for the people, and they are completely in control … we’re trying to have conversations with [consumers] rather than tell them what to buy,” Fischer said.

“It’s a world of constant engagement,” he added.

Consumers can easily and instantly issue and read product and business reviews, even accessing them anywhere through items such as “smart phones.”

“It’s like growing a garden: for the first time, you’re actually interested in having a dialogue with the consumer and you’re trying to understand what they feel about your brand,” Fischer said.

“And you have to listen and respond,” he added.

Mike Such, owner of Junk-Bee-Gone, brought the talk from “30,000 feet to about 100,” focusing on small business owners.

“What the economy has really done is make us focus in on what does work, what hasn’t worked, but we haven’t reduced our [marketing] budget,” Such said.

The downturn actually is a “great opportunity for entrepreneurs,” he added, because advertising “has never been more affordable than it is right now.”

Such also spoke about establishing a brand; Junk Bee Gone is famous for its bumblebee logo, picked out by Such’s daughters.

“Right now, we’re stepping it up a little bit to make sure we are hitting our target audience,” Such said.

He encouraged business owners to make cuts where they could, but not to cut media budgets.

“It’s a great time to strengthen a brand in this marketplace,” Such said.

Marshall Wilkins, director of marketing for Chick-fil-A and a Bearden High School graduate, provided a mid-level view.

He encouraged self-analysis in an economic downturn, but encouraged business owners to “hit the accelerator” in advertising.

However, he said marketing would mean nothing if other basics were ignored; marketing money would be wasted if businesses couldn’t keep customers.

“Quite honestly, that’s the best marketing we can do,” Wilkins said.

“Aggressiveness, I guess, is what we’re doing,” he added.


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