When the Economy is Down, Tune the Branding Opportunities Up

We sat down with some Doorkeepers to talk about strategies and tactics to keep companies' branding machines humming and revenues pointing upward during this, ahem, challenging period. (By the way, did you know that Texas' economy usually grows during recessions?) We know the wise guys out there may think, "Of course an ad agency is going to tell me to spend more money," but here are some good nuggets for efficiently building your brand. And that expression, "Look hungry, go hungry," applies now more than ever. Got to maintain that patina of success in order to continue looking solid and be the go-to brand.

Prentice Howe, Principal, Creative Director: The big thing now is not to run for the hills because you'll be playing catch-up later. Consumer discretionary dollars are shrinking which means companies must find new, thoughtful ways to engage them.

Suzanne Kyba, Principal, Director of Account Services: The groups that are going to be hit the hardest aren't low-end brands like Costco and Sam's and not the ultra premium brands. It's those in the middle, like Kraft. People will buy the store-branded items to save money, so those middle-of-the-road brands need to continue their marketing efforts while enhancing their offers.

Erika Shepler, Account Supervisor: Yes, and you don't want to cut prices too much, if at all, but give people different value propositions. If you cut prices, you may never get them back up once the economy rebounds. Instead, remind people how much value is in your brand.

Mary Kelly Michel, Director of Media: Increase search engine marketing. This is a very cost-effective way to influence low-hanging fruit.

SK: Some brands can ride the wave in an economic downturn, i.e., if more people are staying at home to save money, this is the time for video games, Netflix, popcorn and home electronics companies to increase their market voice and share.

MKM: Yes, the "nesting" products can really take advantage of this time.

SK: There is a big opportunity for non-brand names now. People are open to using new brands with competitive price points. And, for items that are truly discretionary, like the second generation iPhone, your message has to work a little harder to get consumers to make the purchase. These brands should consider connecting the dots between what they can save you in others ways. In the case of the iPhone, "buy this and you won't need a separate MP3 player, camera or GPS."

MKM: Half of consumers wouldn't know there was such a big recession if the media didn't tell them so 24/7. Don't stop spending ad dollars, but allocate to different tactics. Refocus those dollars on targeted vehicles that have been successful for you. Everyone is feeling the pinch, including media companies. Take advantage and negotiate even harder with media outlets.

ES: You can reach back to your database with low-cost e-blasts or direct mail. If you are absolutely forced into downtime with budget constraints, it's a great opportunity to do some brand introspection and retool a bit. Make sure your brand message is offering consumers what they need and desire in a way no one else can.

SK: Right now, if you are not the lowest cost provider/manufacturer, your relationship with the customer has to be at its best to maintain the business. Look at all possible customer touch points (phone calls, online, customer service, billing, etc.) and make sure you are giving clients a great experience all the way around.

MKM: Building goodwill by aligning your brand with a great charity is a smart tactic now. Connect with customers on a local level. Provide a day when all employees do something related to your charity of choice, host an event that provides the opportunity to engage with customers one-on-one, hold a competition or sweepstakes. These personal touches make your company look strong, engage your customers and provide PR content that extends your brand message in the market at very little cost.

And remember, if your competition reduces ad spending, your share of voice will increase without additional spend, and increased share of voice makes companies seem healthy.

Book Corner:
Do The Right Thing

Author James Parker, CEO of Southwest Airlines, uses anecdotes from the airline industry, military history, and even basketball to illustrate how companies can best weather whatever storms come their way. Through these stories, Parker advises CEOs, generals, coaches and all leaders to focus on selecting the best available talent, provide them with all necessary tools, and clearly communicate the broad mission. Success is left in the hands of the front-line employees, who are best placed to adapt to a changing environment while maintaining a focus on the end goal.

He begins Do the Right Thing with the story of how Southwest navigated the post-9/11 dip in airline travel. Despite grounded planes and fearful travelers, Southwest even posted a profit for the quarter, which he credits to the airline honoring its promises. Passengers stranded on 9/11 were rerouted by whatever means available. Customers on future flights were allowed unconditional refunds. No employees were furloughed, and the airline made good on a profit-sharing payout despite tenuous cash reserves. Pay cuts were forbidden, except at the executive level, and that was on a voluntary basis.

The result was that, by and large, people didn't ask for refunds, and some loyal customers even offered to send the airline money. Employees repaid Southwest's loyalty to them by putting in extra effort in the face of daunting new regulatory requirements. Shareholders stood by the company's decision to put short-term profits at risk to uphold critical long-term relationships.

In the earliest days of the airline, Southwest was required to sell one of its four Boeing 737s to satisfy a cash-flow crisis. If they wanted to stay in business, however, the fledgling airline still needed to fly the same number of routes. The solution was a radical experiment in teamwork to reduce turnaround at the gate from 45 minutes down to just ten. The pilot would alert ground crew in advance of arrival and everyone would rush into place to greet the plane. Flight attendants would clean up as passengers disembarked rather than wait for a cleaning crew. These and other small changes added up to enormous cost savings for the airline. However it required that each employee not only do their job, but whatever jobs needed completing, too.

Parker stresses that employees are not a commodity to be used, but a resource to be nurtured and drawn upon. Employees who are treated by the company according to the Golden Rule will respond with passion and treat customers well. Happy and loyal customers will, in turn, treat the company well. As Parker concludes, "It's just that simple." We couldn't agree more.

Creative Corner
Fresh off the assembly line, here's a glimpse at some new work from Door Number 3.

Texas Stars Hockey

Integrated Campaign. Here come the Texas Stars, the Dallas Stars' top affiliate hockey team. Campaign includes outdoor and print announcing the Austin team's Fall 2009 debut.

University of Wyoming

Integrated Campaign. The University of Wyoming offers students the adventure of a lifetime – in and out of the classroom. This latest integrated campaign includes direct mail, online, movie theater advertising, radio, mall kiosks and strategic poster placements. We're geo-targeting kids (influencers) and their parents (decision makers).

Marfa, Texas

Print Campaign. The "Welcome to Marfa, Texas: It's Out There" campaign focuses on the juxtaposition of high art and small town Texas life. It's Old West meets SoHo. All imagery was shot on location in Marfa by Eric Kiel of Idaho. The print, poster and direct mail campaign was created to spur travel and tourism interest in the town of 2,121 people about 190 miles southeast of El Paso.


Michel • Hardwig • Blood Center of Central Texas

Phil Davies, a copywriter for Door Number 3, recently won the indie-popular Dead Radio contest, which looks to resurrect radio spots previously killed by agency clients. Davies’ spot for Dallas-based Southwest Airlines, titled "Paged," beat out 800 international competitors.

We are pleased to announce two new staff hires. Mary Kelley Michel is our Director of Media. Hunter Hardwig also joins the Media department as a Jr. Media Planner/ Buyer.

Alaska sure got a lot of attention the past few months. And Door Number 3 always likes to stay ahead of the curve. So we’ve opened a full-service office in the heart of Juneau. Phone lines are now open.

Door Number 3 always believes in going the extra mile to win a new client. And if that extra mile includes helping the local community, even better. Recently, Doorkeepers at the agency donated blood at the Blood Center of Central Texas. Not only did we help Austinites in need, but we added a wonderful new client to our roster. Talk about a win-win.

Stuff We're Into

New York Times Visualization Lab
One of the best elements on the New York Times website is its amazing interactive charts. The recent launch of the VizLab not only archives many of these great, informative designs, but offers the technology to create your own.

A green version of Google's search engine that actually uses a black screen. It's a small step for energy saving - a very small step actually - but we think that every little bit helps and it's never a bad thing to keep our energy usage top of mind.

Speaking of Google, their software platform for mobile phones, Android, just saw its first public launch. It comes loaded on the new T-Mobile G-1. Initial reactions have been strong, and with a company like Google, one can only expect the open software platform to get better and better. Door Number 3's creative department will still probably keep their iPhones, though.
Google Android

There's no doubt that the economic mood is pretty grim. That's why folks need to find a way to relax and take their minds off of the news headlines. What better way to channel that inner-happy-oblivous-child than by opening up a box of fresh crayons? P.S.: never stay within the lines.

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