This isn’t our first bout with large-scale turmoil. And sad to say, it won’t be our last. But history has helpful lessons to impart if you’re willing to take note.

As Forbes detailed, from the Great Depression to the recessions of the mid 70s, early 90s, and late 2000s, many businesses shelve marketing and advertising. “In the aftermath of the last recession in 2008, ad spending in the U.S. dropped by 13%.”

But the last century of decisions shows clearly how an opportunistic mindset empowers businesses to harness advertising in turmoil — not only for current advantages but lasting dominance. 

Businesses that fall behind in Share of Voice (SOV) — the percentage of your advertising spend relative to your industry’s total advertising spend — also fall behind in market share. As LinkedIn shared, “SOV is strongly correlated to market share. If we allow SOV to fall below the brand’s share of market then market share is likely to fall over the year following.”

Even more profound, “[Cutting advertising budgets] may provide some short-term relief to profitability… but the subsequent loss of market share that follows will be extremely difficult and expensive to regain during the recovery.”

But research is not for everybody. So let’s instead use prominent words of wisdom to explain why slashing your advertising budget is a risky proposition.

“Doing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you are doing, but nobody else does.”

It’s a famous quote — perhaps for its flirtatious vibes as much as its wisdom — from a Northwestern University psychologist and professor of marketing and advertising. Steuart Henderson Britt surely knew how advertising influences consumers’ minds. Advertising is your opportunity to share your story with your prospects — to convey how you can help them. And when you go dark, your prospects’ memory of your brand fades. 

“Creativity may well be the last legal unfair competitive advantage we can take to run over the competition.”

Inevitably, your competitors will replace your brand in consumers’ minds. And as esteemed creative director and author Dave Trott mused, it’s the creative and strategic storytelling brands that will replace you. In normal times, the best brands are developing the most engaging creative to leave lasting impressions on consumers. When your competitors go dark — when there are fewer campaigns to contend with — you have an even greater opportunity to capture your prospects’ attention. 

“Stopping advertising to save money is like stopping your watch to save time.”

Henry Ford knew a thing or two about building a company — and a brand. And his simile is a great compliment to Trott’s quote. You can choose to cut your ad spend, but time will not stop. And neither will advertising. It’s simply a decision of whether you want to remain a part of the competitive conversation or need to invest heavily in catching up when you decide to reenter the race for market share. 

“Recession is opportunity in wolf’s clothing.”

Some of your competitors will cut their advertising spend (and presence). And when it’s time to make your decision, remember this quote from Robin Sharma, leadership expert and author. You’ll have many strong short-term challenges that strike fear in most leaders. But don’t let them disguise the opportunity that a less-crowded market presents. This could be the time to truly distinguish your brand and take the lead for good.