There’s one question on every business man’s lips. It’s a question which is always at the forefront of discussion, especially in a so-called ‘recession’ – there I’ve uttered that filthy word. It’s a question which, according to economic rationalists, doesn’t require an answer. As one said to me recently “The answer’s obvious”. The question of course is, should we advertise and market in today’s perfect, economic storm? I have my own rules in reference to this so let me introduce you to some ‘Robinson’ logic, acquired over plenty of recessions and forty years of marketing.

RULE 1. Never market, promote or brand yourself when nothing is happening!

RULE 2. ‘Nothing’ is never happening!

That’s right! Markets may shrink, expand, change shape, redefine themselves but THEY ARE ALWAYS HAPPENING. Today your market may be in a state of change. It’s your business to adjudicate on that rate and extent of change. To seek to discover how your clients and customers are redefining value and create marketing initiatives which meet those expectations.

Pacific Brands, which owns businesses including Bonds, Holeproof and Berlei, cut 1,850 jobs across the country yesterday, saying there was no longer any competitive advantage to manufacturing clothes in Australia. While I’m not privy to the economics of their plight, I am suspicious of their rationale. It’s a perfect example of the lack of understanding that business takes on marketing because there is no mention of any attempt by this group to reposition themselves in a new environment. Certainly they are in the business of volume production but the cost of products at consumer level is something that every business needs to consider carefully before assuming that Australians will not buy Australian products because they are too expensive.

I recently paid a visit to a menswear store and watched young men purchase fashion label underwear at prices far in excess of a pair of Bonds. The difference may be comfort, fit, material or even brand prestige but it didn’t deter them from parting with an extra four or five dollars for a pair of undies. I’m not accusing Pacific Brands of neglect but I do find it difficult to understand a marketing strategy that does not manoeuvre itself in a market where it could take control. Apart from the fact that I would prefer to buy Australian, and that’s a BIG hint for any Pacific Brand executive who’s perusing the chat sheets, I also appreciate comfort and unique differentials – yes even in underwear! Creating differentiation is not necessarily being different. You can differentiate yourself any old time by being unique and Pacific do not appear to have done that.

So if today you’ve cut the living daylights out of your marketing budget remember this; ‘something’ is happening out there and because you don’t know what it is you WILL miss it. NOTHING is never happening!!!