With economists arguing about what is ahead, a recession or not, content marketers are evaluating their options for the second half of 2023.

A June 2023 study published by CROP revealed that only 8% of Canadian consumers believe it is “a good time to buy” the things they want and need (37% actually answered it is a “bad time to buy”, a 10% increase from 2015).

In the EY Future Consumer Index 2023 report, 49% of Canadians say that brands are no longer important and they are looking into actions to reduce their spending in areas of their lives that are non-essential.

Add to that the fact that marketers’ jobs are more and more complex, with technology playing a big part in this situation. In a 2023 Confessions of a CMO report, 52% of respondents answered that staff abilities to implement and use technology tools is a problem, which in a way generates hidden costs in marketing operations.

But on the flip side:

  • 50% of content marketers expect their content marketing investments to increase this year (source: CMI, 2022).
  • U.S. Ad Spending Still Expected to Grow in 2023 Despite “Stressful Economic Signals” (source: WSJ, 2023).
  • Research has shown “worried consumers—even in the comfortably well off and live-for-today segments—see familiar, trusted brands and products as a safe and comforting choice in trying times. […] Even cash-poor firms would be wise to commit a substantial portion of their marketing resources to reinforcing the core brand proposition” (source: HBR, 2009).

What should content marketers do in this 2023 economic and consumer context?

There are multiple aspects to consider:

  1. Brands should maintain their presence in the market.
  2. Content should address the situation that consumers might be in (both B2C and B2B are affected) and “help them buy” (as opposed to “sell to them”).
  3. Marketing leaders should invest time in streamlining their internal operations (which touch people, processes and technologies, as Cathy McKnight would say).

Maintaining a presence in the market is essential. Cutting too much in reach can have a deep long-term effect on your topline once the market picks up. Content marketing can be a great tool for this as it is a perfect way to communicate your brand’s positioning through its stories, its values and the people and processes behind it. It creates assets that can be used both from an organic and paid reach strategy, and if they are produced and conceived properly, can also have very long shelf life. Brand storytelling can do wonders in these cases.

Helping customers buy is another way content can lift a brand’s perception in the eyes of stakeholders. Content that informs and educates consumers will be perceived as actual value by the audiences you reach. As many consumers will spend more time researching and shopping for the right product or service, they will want to read, listen and watch content that helps them in their decision process. Any brand that helps a person qualify itself (or even disqualify itself) for a service or product will have greater brand perception than a brand that simply resorts to pitching its features and benefits, leaving the client by themselves in trying to figure out if the product is right for their needs. Optimizing your content strategy to make sure your content library will contain assets that help consumers buy is a key step in this context.

Finally, working “on” the content team along with working “with” the content team is a great way to reduce costs. With the right talent pool, the right processes and the right tools, a lot of optimization can be found and implemented into daily initiatives. Doing actual audits and work on content operations is something that is too often overlooked when having to navigate budget cuts and/or budget benchmarking.

An uncertain economic context is not easy on anyone. It is not easy on consumers, it is not easy on brands and it is not easy on content marketers. But by taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture, opportunities can be discovered, that bring a fresh and relevant course of action for any marketer.