In 2008 I turned 21, which is widely known as the legal drinking age in most places. Coincidentally, it also happened to be right smack in the middle of the "great recession," which added extra budget hardships for us newly turned 21-year-olds looking to explore our legal drinking age shenanigans.

At any rate, we had to adapt as cash-strapped college students. We still wanted to have fun and live the "full college experience," but had to do so on an even tighter budget.

Instead of Stella Artois, we drank Keystone Light. Instead of Don Julio, we drank Jose Cuervo (you get the point).

Correlation Between Old School Experience and Brand Success

However, the real interesting and unexpected thing happened many years later, when all our college roommates got together again for a long weekend in upstate Vermont. In our 30s and all working steady jobs, we could now afford Stella and Don Julio if we so desired — however, as a group we collectively decided to relive our glory college years and grab a case of Keystone Light. As we sat around a campfire by the lake, we sipped our less-than-average beer and reminisced about funny stories, times and college life “back in the day.”

This campfire hangout and low-cost beer are key, however, and both apply directly to how your brand can survive and thrive during the recession. For our friend group, we consciously activated parts of our brain that remembered experiences we had with Keystone Light beer and purchased the product again years later. Maybe one day when we have children, and they are of legal drinking age, we will share a Keystone Light with them. Maybe one day when one of our friends gets married, we'll share a Keystone Light at the wedding reception.

Related Article: The Key to CX Success? Planning the Entire Customer Journey

Disruption Breeds Customer Experience Opportunity

There’s no question a recession is imminent. With interest rates, rent and gas reaching decade-high amounts — it’s not a matter of if, but when. With recessions, brands will be challenged to compete against low-cost competitors and customer spending pullbacks.

However, you can leverage the example above, of my friends and our story, as inspiration and an action plan to survive this upcoming recession.

Here are three ways to lay foundational elements during a recession to help you survive and thrive:

Learning Opportunities

1. Listen to your customers: This never truly stops, and during times like a recession, you MUST be listening to what customers want and desire. Look at your analytics and KPIs, talk to your customer service team and listen to what they are hearing from customers. Talk directly to your customers and understand what is truly driving hardships for them. Gathering this information will be critical to helping you determine what opportunities you must create to deliver exceptional experiences.

2. Disruption breeds opportunity: Disruption will always cause challenges, but will also foster opportunity. For your brand, don't just focus on continuing to create connections with your customers; focus on creating new ways to connect. If customers are price sensitive, offer different product options that could save them some cash. If customers are worried about making payments in full, explore alternate payment opportunities that allow customers to pay over time. Become creative with ways to keep your customers coming back, and make it hard for them to leave by creating experiences they are unlikely to find elsewhere.

3. Promote and plan: It may seem counterintuitive to spend more on promotions and advertising during a recession, but you must double down on newly-found opportunities with your customers. If your current set of consumers finds value in your new approach/models, other folks will, too. You need to spread the word through an omni-channel digital marketing approach that drives new customers to your site, customers that look and act like the folks you have been servicing. Then, you must plan for the future post-recession. How might your customer sentiment change? What wants or desires will change or shift? Though this may be easier said than done, look to leverage consumer feedback loops and data to create a post-recession customer experience approach and plan.

At the end of the day, what’s most important to consumers is that your brand is building experiences based upon direct feedback. Customers want and need to felt heard and will actualize this by interacting with experiences you’re creating that are in line with their expectations during this recession. That’s what customer experience is all about.

Humphrey Bogart once said, “The problem with the world is that everyone is a few drinks behind.” Take page out of Bogie's book: don’t be behind of your customer expectations during this recession. Instead, create solutions that solve your customer's problems, and I promise they will raise a glass to your brand and say, “Here’s looking at you, kid.”

Even if that glass is filled with Keystone Light.

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