Should You Be Advertising During a Supply Chain Crisis?


There’s no easy way around it, so let’s start here: right now, the supply chain is a complete and total mess.

From semiconductor chip shortages, to truck driver and food service worker shortages, to clogged ports, to the COVID-19 pandemic that’s still ravaging countries around the world, there is certainly no shortage of causes for today’s supply chain bottlenecks. Meanwhile, customers are flush with cash and looking to spend—normally a blessing to businesses, but somehow now a source of even more headaches. The result: demand is still high, consumer confidence is once again creeping back up, and the upcoming holiday season is poised to turn this supply chain crisis into a full-on shopping nightmare. 

Brands are doing their best to navigate the chaos. Retailers like Amazon, Target, Best Buy and Wal-Mart are all encouraging customers to do their holiday shopping early this year with Black Friday-level deals premiering in October and early November. But even with this unprecedented effort to encourage early gift-hunting, higher prices, limited inventory and shipping delays are still looking inevitable. And, for many businesses, the supply shortages appear destined to last well into 2022 (or even beyond).

In the face of dwindling inventory and facing the wrath of customers who’ve grown accustomed to a certain level of convenience and “on-demand” living, many brands are starting to ask themselves a perfectly reasonable question: if we already don’t have enough products to sell, should we scale back our marketing efforts?

While this tactic may seem fairly logical on the surface, there are actually a number of reasons why businesses would be wise to continue advertising throughout any supply chain crisis. Let’s take a look at four of the best reasons to maintain your advertising levels in the months ahead: 

Reason #1: Maintain Brand Recognition

The first reason is, perhaps, the most obvious: if you want your brand to stay top-of-mind in an increasingly competitive landscape that’s full of both traditional retailers and low-overhead online disruptors, you’ll want to keep advertising. Maintaining uninterrupted marketing efforts can help your brand preserve (or raise) its status in the form of brand recognition and encourages ongoing brand loyalty. That way, when supply inevitably returns, so too will your customers.

Several major brands have already embraced a “don’t slow down” approach for this very reason. The Wall Street Journal recently noted that, while some businesses plan to cut back their advertising efforts amidst the global supply chain crisis, many are reticent to make cuts to their marketing budgets—and risk an ensuing decrease in brand visibility and market share—in a world with sky-high demand.

Companies like Procter & Gamble (regularly among the world’s largest advertisers) have said they have no plans to cut back on advertising, and even automakers like GM plan to have a “hearty media presence” despite the semiconductor shortage that is wreaking havoc on supply in the auto industry. Most brands would be wise to follow their lead.

Reason #2: Showcase Your Digital Offerings

No physical products? No problem! Now is the perfect time to draw attention to your digital presence. Whether you’re an online-only service-based business or a mom-and-pop retailer with a brick-and-mortar storefront (or anything in between), this is a perfect moment to create and run ads focused on your app, website and/or virtual offerings.

Many businesses invested heavily in their digital capabilities after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and now is the time to showcase those improvements to an eager audience that’s grown increasingly interested in a seamless online experience. Digital ads that link directly to your app or website can take customers right to your virtual storefront, where they can see for themselves (without ever having to leave the comfort of their living room/bed/bathtub/etc.) just what’s in stock, or even add their names to a waiting list for whenever your inventory does return. All said, it shows how even in a less-than-ideal supply chain situation, you are still there for your customers and creating as frictionless a buying experience as possible.

Reason #3: Put a Spotlight on Your Values

Even if you are short on inventory, you should still be high on brand. While you may not want to run as many ads encouraging people to run (not walk) to the store to pick up your latest offering, you can (and should!) still be running ads that demonstrate what your brand represents. In fact, the supply chain crisis actually presents brands with an opportunity to advertise their values—something that can resonate particularly with Millennial and Gen Z consumers.

According to Basis’ own research, most Gen Z consumers say they want brands to share their values, follow ethical standards, and do good for the world: 

More than two-thirds of Zoomers “expect brands to contribute to society,” and 61% say they would pay more for products that are produced in an ethical and sustainable way. This can’t just be window dressing-type stuff, either—it takes more than updating the banner image on your social media profile to, say, a Pride-themed logo every June to demonstrate your values. Gen Z is too digitally-savvy for anything that’s purely superficial, and they will call you out on our own feeds if they smell something inauthentic (or worse, if they can prove ideological inconsistencies or contradictions).

What’s more, demonstrating a commitment to these values will help your brand stand out from the crowd: a recent study found that only 39% of brands are trusted in North America and 71% of consumers have “little faith” that brands will deliver on their promises. At the same time, 64% of all consumers say they prefer buying from companies with a reputation for purpose as well as profit, and more than half are willing to pay more for a brand that takes a stand. Don’t just espouse values in ads and tweets—but instead, demonstrate your commitment to them by taking action. Do that, and reap the benefits—especially with Gen Z.

Running ads that showcase your brand’s commitment to ethical and sustainable values can boost your reputation among key audiences and increase the odds you’ll stand out in a crowded marketplace.

Reason #4: Kickstart Your Hiring

In the wake of The Great Resignation, industries of all kinds are facing talent shortages. Re-allocating part of your marketing budget toward ads that highlight job openings and draw attention to your corporate culture can put your organization in a position to emerge from the supply chain crisis at full strength.

Recruitment marketing helps promote your “employer brand” and can get potential hires into recruitment cycles that are not dissimilar to the sales cycles your marketing team uses to attract and nurture new customers. What’s more, when executed most effectively, these recruitment ads can also help position your brand in a positive light for your target customer audiences—in other words, it’s a win-win.

Advertising During a Supply Chain Crisis

By continuing to advertise during a supply chain crisis, you will set your brand up for increased success once we reach the other side. By making minor adjustments to your strategy, using some new creative, and focusing on things like brand recognition, digital offerings, company values and hiring needs, your brand can make the most of the moment.

Of course, as you run your ads, you’ll want to make sure you’re reaching the right people. Check out our guide, Beyond Third-Party Cookies: Your Guide to Overcoming the Identity Crises, to learn more about the latest identity solutions for the ad tech industry.