File this lesson away for the next recession

The more one reads about the history of recessions and market collapses, the more one realizes why certain contrarian investors and marketers look forward to those times when others are capitulating, laying off, hunkering down and wallowing in bad news delivered by CNBC all day.

Those who see times like these as business and investment opportunities love reading stories like this one on with the headline, “Why the Talk Has Turned to Depression.” They especially love the last sentence in the story, “This goes to show that nearly everyone has gone from being nervous to terrified.” (Sidenote: Such an attribution to a make-believe group called “nearly everyone” reveals the piece to be what Jeff Jarvis calls “a self-fulfilling story.”)

When people who run giant companies get terrified over the possibility they may lose the ability to travel in private jets, they also lose the ability to think. That is great news for those who can. Rudyard Kipling taught you that in middle school: “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you…you’ll be a Man, my son!”

Being terrified is another way of saying, “panic.” Kipling said it much more poetically than neurologists and psychologists, but they explain what happens when you panic in much the same way. However, they use terms like “limbic hijacking” to describe the way panic causes emotional parts of issues (like watching CNBC all day) to hijack the part of our brain from which rational thought originates.

I say all this to note that sometime in the future, when we’re heading into the next recession, writers will be looking for examples of how companies weathered previous recessions. And once more, they will look back and discover the winners were those companies that look forward to recessions as times in which they can gain market share. Like so many other things when it comes to marketing, Apple will be one of the examples, and the story-line will go something like this:

“While other technology companies curtailed their ad budgets to ride out what appeared to be an intense and protracted recession, Apple actually increased marketing and advertising.”

Apple will come out of this recession a winner. “Nearly everyone” who panics won’t.