Is the Recession as Bad as the Media Says?

I normally would not comment on this subject because too much has been said about it already. But businesses and consumers translate this information into negative action. And this affects marketers and strikes at the heart of key strategic initiatives.

Furthermore, the complexity of the economy discourages average businesses and consumers from delving much beyond the biased headlines to uncover the facts.

You see, I think that what began as a housing and banking crisis grew to something worse because of the media's leaning toward sensationalism and negativity. And the human psyche naturally gravitates toward the negative rather than the positive. (As a direct marketer, I often see negative headlines outpull the positive ones).

So the hype behind the recession transforms itself into a self fulfilling prophesy.


Most of us are not experts on the economy. But we should be aware of where the messages come from and the possible hidden agendas.

I wanted to share with you the perspective of the economy from a fellow direct marketer who did his homework.

Doug Garnett, President of Atomic Direct made these comments in his recent article In Response Magazine entitled "The Full Truth About the Economy Is Too Complex for Headlines."

"... A December 29 Bloomberg article titled ’Holiday Sales Drop to Force Bankruptcies, Store Closings’ reported the total store closures for 2008 would likely hit 148,000... read further and find out that this is the only worst total since 2001. In truth more than 100,000 stores normally close in a year and 153,000 stores closed in 2001."

The Associated Press had this headline on December the 24th headline, "November Personal Spending Falls 0.6%. Deep in the article you find that the drop is due solely to a [drop] in gas prices... excluding the change in [gas prices], consumer spending would have actually risen in November."

"On January 8, retailers released their numbers and the AP article was titled 'Retailers Report Dismal Sales.' Buried in the article we learn that Target, Macy's and even JC Penney beat expectations, and that sales increased at both Wal Mart and Cotsco." Demand had dropped, but it was not that bad across the board.

We have not heard too much about the successes.

"Amazon.com had record sales in Q4, 2008.
A growing number of analysts offer optimistic assessments of 2009".

As marketers, we accept that perceptions are reality when it comes to building sales for our companies and clients. But we also need to help our companies see the positive side of the story by backing it up with properly balanced assessments.

The American tradition has always leaned toward the positive, overcoming obstacles and creating new opportunities. So we need to reassert the power of positive thinking and the potential for missing real money-making opportunities when seeing everything from the negative point of view.

Posted on March 18, 2009 and filed under Direct Marketing Strategy, General.