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Why now's the time for ecommerce marketers to get creative

By Jenny Stanley, Managing director

March 24, 2020 | 7 min read

October 24th, 1929, better known as Black Thursday, signified the start of the Great Depression. Dow Jones opened at 305.95 and immediately plunged 9%. Stocks were being traded at three times the standard volume as those in Wall Street frantically bought shares to halt the slide. Over the weekend, the strategy appeared to be working, 9% had become only two, and by closure on the Saturday, the Dow was at a relieving 298.97. The figures here really don't matter, the fact is the snowball was close to being stopped.

Appetite Creative suggest marketers look to other historical moments for considering how best to ride this wave.

Appetite Creative suggest marketers look to other historical moments for considering how best to ride this wave.

Then came Black Monday, the Dow dropped an ominous 13%. By the end of Black Tuesday, October 29th, 1929, the Dow was at 230.07, and panicking investors had sold 16.5 million shares.

The media of the time had fanned the flames by writing about short-selling and an exodus of foreign investors. The British stock market was wobbling at the time which had drawn focus, too, and with nervous eyes on the UK, Great Britain's chancellor of the exchequer, Philip Snowden, described America's stock market as "a perfect orgy of speculation."

With hype only fueling more hype - with Washington Post headlines such as "Huge Selling Wave Creates Near-Panic as Stocks Collapse," and The Times screaming "Prices of Stocks Crash in Heavy Liquidation" - investors and traders went from cautious to nervous to petrified. The tipping point came, and Black Thursday signified a decade-long depression.

"Learn from yesterday, live for today; hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning." Albert Einstein, no less.

Today, with Covid-19 causing chaos throughout the world, we need to make sure that we do indeed learn from what our past generations had to suffer. We are not comparing ourselves to those that lost everything in the past. But we are here to show you that shining lights can shine at their brightest during the darkest times.

Let's not deny the obvious; we are in a pandemic. Our priority is health and wellbeing. The situation is real and profound with effects that will last. We are all offering our hands to anybody who needs them. But we also want to be positive, and we'll start with an excellent example.

During the late 1920s, there was somewhat of a 1980s Coca-Cola Pepsi war going on in the States. It was between two big players in the rather new ready-made breakfast cereal world. "Post"... and "Kellog."

Rather new might be an exaggeration; the products had been around for a good while; but delicious cream-of-wheat and porridge was still seen as the norm for the majority. It was a growing market when the depression hit.

Post acted as one would expect by pragmatically cutting expenses and withdrawing advertising budgets. Porridge was fine, and nobody would be worrying about Snap Crackle and Pop right now. Post were waiting for things to settle down.

Kellog, on the other hand, doubled their ad budget, and pushed their brand-new cereal, Rice Crispies, as hard as they could. Four years later, the economy was still gasping for air, and profits at Kellog had skyrocketed.

Opportunistic, perhaps, but it is worth noting here that the company owner, Mr Kellog himself, protected his staff, too. At the time the company ran three six-hour shifts per day. He changed this to four six-hour shifts to, in his words "give work and paychecks to the heads of more than 300 more families." Shining a light into the darkest corners was helping real people. Mr Kellog knew very well that suffering was everywhere, but what he did was far more than ruthless expediency at the expense of social morals.

We can not merely wait and cross our fingers for the good times to come back. We are marketers, and during a crisis, we will do even more of what we do best.

In the 1980s, there was a British athlete who once said: "I train twice on Christmas Day because I know the others aren't training at all. It gives me two extra days."

Francis Morgan Ayodélé "Daley" Thompson, CBE, won the decathlon gold medal at the Olympic Games in 1980 and 1984 and broke the world record for the event four times. He set a new standard and encouraged generations that saw him.

Right now triple Michelin starred chef Heston Blumenthal is putting his restaurant in the spotlight by offering huge discounts by saying: "At the Fat Duck, we have always prided ourselves on providing the very best experience for our guests, and in these uncertain times, we remain committed to doing just that. We are listening to official advice, taking all the precautions necessary and following all appropriate guidelines and procedures.

"It's a difficult time, though, and like many of your local restaurants, we've been hit by cancellations from guests who can no longer travel to be with us. We are, however, open as usual, and we'd love your support in helping us keep the local economy running. We invite you to consider joining us over the coming weeks and as a thank you for your support, and we are offering £75 off our usual ticket price for bookings before the end of April."

Whether he expects many customers or not is not the point, he is making sure that his restaurant, a vital beacon that brings people from all over the world to its town, remains in the limelight and does not become forgotten. If the Fat Duck is forced to close for an unspecified amount of time, Heston Blumenthal will likely survive, but how would it affect the community around it and the staff inside?

World Book Online have just made their fabulous collection of over 3,000 ebooks and audiobooks available for free for children to access at home. Altruism indeed, and who would possible begrudge them a slightly more significant market share for having done so?

Marketing guru Mark Ritson recently added to the feeling when he said, "The wheels of industry need to keep turning so workers are paid, and families are fed. Those wheels are best greased by effective marketing."

For e-commerce, the opportunity to get in front of more people should be glaring, yet we still find ourselves somewhat wary of doing so in times like these. The only way out of hard times is to keep working through them. If it's an uphill battle, we have to work even harder. In doing so, there is potential for growth, for gaining a market voice.

We are not in the business of exploiting any scenario that would cause any form of suffering. We are advocating transparency and honesty in everything we do, and we want to double our efforts during tough times. We will lose money; we will not lose our drive.

We want the people, you, the economy, and ourselves to come out of this stronger and more resilient than ever.

Please look after yourselves and stay safe and healthy.

Jenny Stanley, founder and managing director at Appetite Creative.


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