I've been hearing horror stories of companies laying off employees that had no direct impact on sales. What a horrible company decision. Some of these cut backs affected branding and public relations. A big no no in my book. How can a company, or group of people come to the conclusion that branding and PR has NO effect on sales?
Brand perception is key to many purchases we do. We may choose to pay more (even in this down economy) for certain items if we are buying a sense of quality, trust, integrity. Branding builds on these concepts. They help that "top of mind" feeling when consumers are deciding between two items of similar value and appeal.
For example, I may not buy the flashiest expensive designer handbag but I may just decide to go for a mid range brand since everybody's purse strings are tightening. Which of these brands are standing out to me right now? Those that are still investing in branding in magazines and online. With a smart branding/awareness campaign, I've discovered Betsey Johnson, which is fun, frilly and friendly to your wallet. Would I have looked twice at the bag if I didn't recognize the brand? Call me shallow, but I probably would have walked away.
I'm a huge proponent of direct marketing - immediate, measurable and ROI driven marketing, but cutting in branding is making your organization dependant on continuous spend to maintain sales. If you have to slash the marketing budget, don't kill off a whole tactic, but reduce across the board and push for smarter strategy.
Take a hard look at the marketing objectives and strategy. View marketing as a holistic, whole entity where each member is important to the survival and mobility of your product. Tie your programs together, and make sure each tactic works with the others to create one voice.