Brands must ignore fear-peddling hucksters and spend with confidence

King Kong founder Sabri Suby argues against doubt-peddling, recession-induced media narratives that are frightening brands out of their advertising spend.

Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve faced an onslaught of attention-grabbing digital media headlines. Snap Inc’s shares fell nearly 40% following a profit warning from its developer. Facebook parent Meta Platforms faced a $53 billion drop in market value. Apple’s iOS 14.5 has thrown a spanner in the works for Meta when it comes to tracking. Google is facing a threat from Neeva… apparently.

Should we be worried? In short, no. I sleep soundly at night knowing that the highest paid engineers in the world at a $500 billion market cap company – and the 8th most valuable company on the planet – aren’t just going to let all their revenue dry up. They’ll find a work around for the tracking dilemma, and will weather the oncoming recession storms.

Money follows attention. And where’s the attention? It certainly isn’t on TV, or billboards, or radio. Social media is the number one dealer of dopamine in the world. It’s engineered to be highly addictive. The huge increase in screen time over the last two years might dip a little as people go out into the world a little bit, but like it or not, our screen addiction is here to stay. Once those neural pathways are formed in the brain for dopamine, it’s very difficult to break.

As for people predicting the demise of Facebook and Instagram in the face of TikTok, I don’t think it’s that binary. On one hand, it’s the first time ever in history that we’re seeing a non-US-based tech company arise as a huge social media presence without being crushed. On the other, the people over at Facebook are smart, aggressive and astute business people. And at the end of the day, they still have more than double TikTok’s captive audience.

TikTok’s ad platform is getting a lot of steam, which is a really good sign for the business’ longevity. Looking forward, I see a place where TikTok is just another pillar along with Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Twitter, and YouTube as tent poles in the social media landscape.

Whatever happens, we’re not seeing the death of digital media as we know it. People who say so are no more than hucksters peddling fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD). As we dive headfirst into a recession, people will no doubt start to tighten their purse strings on ad spend, and wrongfully so. In doing so, the market is placing more importance on current earnings than future earnings and is failing to look ahead beyond our current economic climate.

Marketing is the oxygen that keeps your business alive, and when there is less oxygen in the air, the last thing you want to do is stop breathing. History has shown time and time again that those that continue to be bold during a recession gain a disproportionate amount of the customers and revenue.

Brands should never put themselves in a position where their social media strategy is just reacting to the latest scaremongering happening in the media. Don’t look at what is changing, but what is not going to change. People are going to continue to spend more and more time online, and they’re always going to have it as a part of their lives.

In the face of an economic recession, it’s critical that brands continue to put their money where their mouth is on social. Sure, there is a lot of organic reach possible on TikTok right now, with a lot of people building million-plus audiences. But as the advertising platform starts to gain more speed, that organic reach is going to go down and we’re going to be in the same position as Meta’s platforms.

Brands that continue to rely solely on organic content are always going to be chasing their tail, and that next fad, rather than actually building a sustainable business model.

I have confidence that we can beat the FUD: in fact, over the past few months, we’ve seen clients locally and internationally ignore the media narratives and increase their spending by 20-30%.

So, while there is a lot of economic uncertainty present, don’t let these FUD hucksters paralyse you into inaction or pull back on the most important thing of all in a recession: marketing.

Sabri Suby, author and founder and head of growth at full-service digital marketing agency King Kong


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