10 Steps to Recession-Proof Your Marketing:
How to Grow (And Profit From) Your Early-Stage Fast-Growth Business During a Downturn. Published by Stuart McFaul. Copyright ©2023 Stuart McFaul. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems without permission in writing from the publisher/author, except by a reviewer who may quote passages in a review. All images, logos, quotes, and trademarks included in this book are subject to use according to trademark and copyright
laws of the United States. MCFAUL, STUART, Author The book is printed in the United States.
How to Grow (and Profit From) Your Early Stage Fast-Growth Business
Published by Stuart McFaul
A perfect storm is coming for early-stage and fast-growth companies.
Uncertainty is at an all-time high. All over the world, businesses are facing the challenges
of rising inflation, ongoing supply-chain issues, and turbulence in the stock
market. This is compounded by challenges experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic
that we hoped would all be in the past by now.
Business is different today, introducing new challenges like remote work and quiet
quitting. While technology has offered opportunities to increase productivity and
create new opportunities for businesses1, endless Zoom meetings have led to a
loneliness epidemic2. Leaders are struggling to create a thriving company culture
when teams work remotely. Employees feel disconnected, and their work can begin
to seem transactional.
Exacerbated by our fractious social milieu, these business events set the stage for
continuing unevenness. And although an uncertain future awaits, one thing is certain:
a recession is looming. It may not be tomorrow, next week, or even next month,
but a recession is certainly in our future.
More than 75% of Americans believe we’re already in a recession or a “vibecession,”
a period when people feel anxious about the economy even though it’s technically
in good shape. A possible argument in favor of this belief could be that in the face
of increasing prices for goods and services and a slowdown of economic growth,
the second half of 2022 saw record-high employment rates in the US, and wages
began a rapid climb.
The buying power of consumers continues to decline. Food prices alone rose by
9.9% in 2022, and while they’re expected to increase as much in 2023, they’re still
forecast to go up 7.1% in 2023 — well above historical average rates. And according
to a Gallup poll conducted in January of 2023, Americans haven’t felt as pessimistic
about their finances since the Great Recession of 2008–2009.
Yet spending continues to climb even in the face of this anxiety about the uncertain
future. The economy isn’t following the trends or expectations of a typical recession,
and yet the economy is in decline.
At the end of the day, a vibecession often precedes an actual recession and sets in
motion the same human behaviors as an actual recession; this, along with the fact
that there’s been a recession nearly every ten years since 1958, makes it likely the
next one is on the horizon
So, it’s time to steel yourself.
Weathering the Storm:
When business, social, and financial uncertainty happen at once, a perfect storm for
a recession is on the horizon.8 And as noted before, the timing is right. But seeing
these storm clouds at a distance is also a gift. It allows us to prepare for what we
know will come.
This was a lesson learned during the financial crisis of 2008. At the time, Paul Otellini,
CEO of Intel, kept his cool and invested heavily in research & development (R&D),
expansion plans, and hiring9. This proved a terrific opportunity for early-stage and
fast-growth companies when other major companies followed suit. Apple, Google,
Microsoft, and Facebook (now Meta) spent the last recession acquiring more than
150 companies. When the market bounced back, they were bigger, stronger, more
profitable, and better positioned for the future.
And dozens of startup founders profited f rom being successfully acquired.
Given that we’ve had 11 recessions over the last 50 years10, we’ve seen how things
play out again and again. Knowing what we need to do is simply paying attention to
I’ve worked through several recessions — five, in fact. The one that’s coming will
make it six. During one recession in the early 1990s, I launched a product so unique and successful that the Smithsonian asked me if they could add its model to their
archives. I spent the ensuing years learning why that product worked so well and how the
same success could be repeated for others. After studying 500 brands, I developed
a recipe that I tested with over 200 clients.
It’s a recipe for success that underscores the recommendations in this book. First,
you’ll look at why successful brands make it through recessions and how they do it.
You’ll then learn how you can systematically prepare your business to do the same.
For smart companies, knowledge is power; our objective here is to tap you into that
After reading this book, you’ll understand how you can recession-proof your business
with a few simple changes to your marketing strategy.
So, let’s get started.
Given the dynamic nature of online resources, you may find one or more of these links is changed or removed.
We apologize in advance for the inconvenience.
Adgate, “When A Recession Comes, Don’t Stop Advertising.”
Tom Puthiyamadam and José Reyes, Experience is everything: Here’s how to get it right (New York: PwC, 2018).
Puthiyamadam and Reyes, Experience is everything
Puthiyamadam and Reyes, Experience is everything.
Puthiyamadam and Reyes, Experience is everything.
Heinrich, Henderson, and Lee, “The New Recession Playbook.”
Puthiyamadam, Tom, and José Reyes. Experience is everything: Here’s how to get it right. New York: PwC, 2018