What is a Recession-Proof Brand? And How Do You Become One?

Community Commerce

time to read 5 MIN READ
What is a Recession-Proof Brand? And How Do You Become One?

Recessions nearly always have something of an "out-with-the-old-in-with-the-new" effect. If you're a growing brand concerned that you'll run aground due to an impending economic downturn, the good news is that you can capture opportunities that you wouldn't have otherwise.

That said, experts have a lot to say about what a recession-proof brand is. Not only that, but many decision-makers think their brand is immune until they start to see conversions fall. But there is a way to prepare for and pivot amidst a recession that impacts your industry.

So let's talk about what it means to not just survive a recession but how to actually get ahead as inflexible marketers and CEOs will struggle to adapt. 

What Does It Mean to Be Recession-Proof?

recessionsfigure-032522-b91ba309d29f4688ad1abc4d934eb496Image Source: Investopedia

When marketers talk about recession-proof brands, they usually mean one of two things:

  1. A recession-proof brand is one that sells an essential product or service, such as staple goods, healthcare, etc.
  2. A recession-proof brand is one that offers such a unique customer experience that people will do whatever it takes to buy it.

If your brand falls under #1, you may not be as worried as your other industry counterparts. It may be that you are anticipating inventory issues and supply shortages instead.

But if your brand falls under #2, you're going to have to find a way to connect with your customers and give them something worth spending their hard-earned (but slowly shrinking away) money on. Buyers become frugal during economic downturns - many even lose their jobs. But it is possible to offer so much more than your product or service, and as a result, you become emotionally essential to your target audience.

Which Industries are Considered Recession-Proof?

Regardless of the customer experience, the following industries typically outlast or grow during a recession:

  • Grocery stores
  • Drug stores
  • General staple goods
  • Discount retailers
  • Healthcare
  • Basic cosmetics
  • Utilities
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Home Improvement (DIY)
  • Technology
  • Media
  • Financial services

image-1571673919663-3f8ea9c81cd8324d83961735b8810a18Image Source: TopTal

In the list above, people either feel they can't survive/cope without those products/services, or they are spending alternatively to accommodate a much lower budget.

Products People Need

Products people need during a recession nearly always have to do with survival (food, water, etc.) and basic amenities. That's why grocery, drug, and convenience stores typically thrive during a recession.

People will try to get by with luxury items acquired through discount or DIY stores. They may prefer quality over price any other time, but when things get difficult financially, they will buy what they feel they can afford.

Services People Need

Services people need also pertain to survival (utilities, healthcare, etc.) or basic needs. 

When it comes to luxury services (travel, construction, etc.), many will opt out entirely or try to manage the need on their own to save money.

How Can Your Brand Become Essential to Your Audience?

Regardless of what your brand sells, you have the ability to endear yourself to buyers and offer the kind of relief and positivity that helps people cope in a difficult time. 

To become essential to your audience, the key will be creating a unique and memorable customer experience. Some brands do this by offering new features and product lines. Others focus on delivering their product or service in a special way.

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Image Source: McKinsey.com

What you do to create an incredible customer experience must come from a deep understanding of who your audience is and what is most important to them. The most powerful motivator for buyers is feeling a sense of belonging. Communities always thrive during hard times, and brands that leverage community-building gain remarkable insights and growth regardless of the what the economy is doing.

5 Ways to Recession-Proof Your Business

1. Do More Marketing, Even If You Have a Lower Budget.

No marketer ever likes to hear that their budget is getting cut in half (or worse). But it's critical that you know you can "do marketing" without spending more. The best marketing is all about connecting with others. During a recession, you'll want to do more of it, not less.

To connect with your audience during difficult times, you should think outside the box. Leverage the unique talents of your team to create authentic, compelling content that draws people to your brand. Social media and brand community initiatives are by-and-large free, and these techniques will do a much better job of driving vibrant word-of-mouth.

2. Build Brand Community.

A Brand Community is a group of people that have a relationship with or affinity to a brand. These people include customers, employees, social followers, partners, complementary brand customers/followers, and more. - Brand Community Marketing: Building a Strategy to Find & Activate Your Brand Fans


People in your brand community "get you." You don't have to oversell them or constantly put out fires. They are your greatest advocates and offer the best product/service feedback. 

No matter how small your community is at first, you can always equip them to grow. Community influencers will be your greatest allies when it comes to nurturing engaged audiences around your brand values, mission, and customer experience.

First, uncover people in your community (social followers, repeat customers, happy employees, etc.) and see which of them have influence. You can gauge influence by checking out their Cindex score and social media presence.

Next, partner with relevant community influencers (including the ones you uncovered in step 1 above) to drive awareness, engagement, and even sales.

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Just remember, you will generate massive ROI with your brand community so long as you nurture that community. That means that you will need to (at times) sacrifice conversion objectives for those goals that drive genuine connection with and among members of your audience.

3. Drill Down on What You Do Best.

You can't please everyone. But there is a reason you have any loyal customers at all. More than ever before, it's time to understand specifically all the parts of your brand that truly set you apart.

Consider talking to more customers. Gaining these insights will require you to step back and do a lot of listening. Let your best brand fans tell you what makes you unique.

While gathering this data, don't be afraid to educate your customers. There may be aspects of your brand, product, or service that they've never heard of. Let this task become a collaborative experience for you, your top customers, and your marketing team.

Once you've identified your brand's "secret sauce," develop value propositions that drive that "secret sauce." Marketing during a recession isn't the time for guesswork. You'll want to pour as much time, energy, and funds into those things that you know will resonate with your audience.

4. Leverage Referral Relationships.

While connecting with members of your community, it's also great to incentivize referrals. If times are hard for your business, chances are they're also hard for your customers. They could use a discount, gift card, or whatever else you can give in exchange for referrals.

As you refine your referral marketing efforts, you'll discover more advance word-of-mouth marketing techniques that will serve you well even after the end of a recession.

5. Help Others.

Yes, times are hard. But not everything is about your brand.

Brands that invest in genuinely helping members of their audience have the best brand loyalty and lowest customer acquisition costs. 

And helping others doesn't always have to mean giving something away. Often, it means improving your customer service, making meaningful product updates customers ask for, and going the extra mile.

Why Community Commerce Strategy is Key in Any Economic Climate

Community Commerce is a strategy that brings people together around shared values and goals for genuine connection, relevant content, and a more fun and trusted buying experience.


Communities grow in number and strength during economic downturns. Your buyers depend on one another, both for emotional support and to make smarter buying decisions. 

Community Commerce helps your brand become the subject of conversation among the most vibrant consumer communities. More importantly, it's more cost-effective than traditional marketing techniques (like paid ads). 

Recession-proofing your brand must always include uncovering your brand community members and activating them as community leaders and advocates. Community Commerce does more than grow your business, it helps people connect with one another, and they will have your brand to thank.

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