Is it time to dust off the recession playbook?

by Nigel Hollis | July 11, 2016

A recent piece by J. Walker Smith, Executive Chairman of The Futures Company, reminded me irresistibly of a scene from the 2009 Star Trek movie. With the Enterprise failing to resist the gravitational pull of a black hole Kirk cries, “All she’s got isn’t good enough”.

In his post titled, ‘Slower growth... and six ways to defy its gravitational pull’, Walker Smith suggests that, at the current level of growth, it is uncertain whether the global economy can reach escape velocity from the 2009 Great Recession. As if to confirm his suggestion, the next day the World Bank revised down its forecast of global growth from 2.9 percent to 2.4 percent and warned,

“The global economy is increasingly vulnerable to a sharp slowdown as troubles in emerging markets mount and as advanced economies struggle to grow.”

In the Star Trek movie Scotty offers a desperate solution to the plight of the Enterprise,

“If we eject the core and detonate the blast should be enough to push us away. I canna promise anything though.”

Companies faced with a slowing economy may not be faced with such a fraught decision and at least have some precedent to rely on. Whether they act on that learning is another matter.


Walker Smith offers six strategies to offset slowing growth which might be boiled down to: follow the money, change with the times, and keep innovating. His points are all sound but one in particular struck me as noteworthy: learn from the disruptors, particularly in other product categories. We know that innovation pays off, BrandZ finds that brands which were perceived as innovative in 2009 grew at over seven times the rate of less innovative brands; however, it is often challenging to think how things could be different. Looking to other categories and asking, ‘Would that work for us?’ is a good way to explore.

I have my own recipe for what to do when faced with recession. Here you will find a Point of View written in early 2008 that addresses the issue of how much to invest in advertising during a recession, or you might want to check out this one, which takes a more tactical look at what actions a brand could take to fend off a slower economy.

So what do you think? Is it too soon to brush off the recession play book or not? Please share your thoughts.

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