Keynesian marketing and the business of confidence


I am not an economist but let’s say I am economically curious.


And I wonder whether some of the debates that are happening in the world of economics might have relevance to the world of brands and marketing. And specifically the rekindling of interest in Keynesian economics following the financial crisis and the failure of more classical or neo-classical economics to deliver growth. This is something we are acutely aware of in the UK where a Government obsessed with deficit and debt reduction choked off growth and thus taxation revenue resulting in both a triple dip recession and growing borrowing.


At the heart of the Keynesian approach is the multiplier. This suggests that moderate increases in Government expenditure, drives additional spending in the economy by a multiple of that increase. In other words to stimulate growth and pay down debt you need to drive spending into the economy rather than reduce it. This is naturally counter-intuitive for the classical economists and those running our country but it proved powerful during the great depression and may well point the way forward today.


When it comes to brands and marketing, it’s this multiplier that I am interested in but not simply as a rational virtuous circle of spending, activity, employment and taxation revenue but the emotional effect of all of this – confidence. Because what Keynesian governments are really trying to do is to inject confidence into the economy not just stimulus.


This is surely the real role of the brand creativity in these times of consumer austerity and economic uncertainty – to act as a confidence multiplier for businesses. Or to put it another way while it may seem counter intuitive for agencies and clients alike to deliver and demand more audacious and potent creativity when there is an air of pessimism and caution, it is precisely what is needed. For the confidence that high altitude creativity builds around a brand whether with colleagues, the trade, opinion formers or customers is capable of kick starting growth and a powerful virtuous circle of activity.


We found this on T-Mobile in the depths of the financial crisis when we started creating events like the dance in Liverpool Street station and the welcome home in Heathrow instead of banging out austerity led deal ads. Something in their exuberance and optimism caught the mood of the public and drove significant increases in sales and share. And we find it with Toyota whose growth last year dwarfs the category in part because they faced down the flat new car market and created brave new work (in particular for the GT86 sports car) that inspired the dealers and built confidence in consumers – both of which are powerfully reinforcing.


Indeed I would like to challenge the idea that many agency people have, that there are good clients and bad clients, there aren’t, there are simply confident clients and un-confident clients. And my bet is that the confident clients are the ones winning at the moment rather than the cautious and scared. Our role as agencies therefore must be to redouble our belief in and ability to produce game changing creativity and to provide the clear narrative, proof and performance metrics that help even the most confident clients take necessary creative risks


And to remind our selves that the real role of brands and creativity is to inspire and inject confidence, maybe we should dust down those economics textbooks and dub ourselves, Keynesian Marketers.

Image courtesy of Steve Hunnisett

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