Reasons To Continue Building Your Brand During A Recession.

No, it’s not blistering economic times, but who likes blisters anyway?

Not to make light of the situation, but there is still business to be done out there. If you sell a viable product or service, and you love what you do for a living, recessions have the potential to be fun.

Yes, fun.

It’s a time to step back and define what you’re great at, what needs work and what you should probably no longer be doing. In essence, it’s an opportunity for you to get better at what you do, which is gratifying. And gratification is fun.

So is building your brand. In fact, it practically requires that you have fun. And don’t let the word ‘fun’ mislead you into thinking that this is brand-building is an indulgence. Recessions are not only an imperative time to get your (well-honed) message out there, as you will see in the following posts that follow, investing now will benefit you long-term, also.

Now you may ask, ‘shouldn’t we just be looking to survive?’

That may be true for some, but survival rarely comes from a place of passion. For the passionate, thriving — during any time — is the goal.

And passion is the fuel.

Over the next few weeks we’ll share with you, why — and in some cases how — you must apply that fuel now:

“Losers cut marketing in a recession, and the result is they simply accelerated their loss in market share after the recession.”

— Larry Light, past global CMO of McDonald’s

Of course this is the former CEO of one of the world’s fiercest and most successful marketing machines. Easy for him to say. So how do we apply their advice to the situation of us little guys? We could start by asking ‘Why is McDonald’s successful?’ There are many reasons but let’s boil it down to three basics: research, systems and marketing. They use research to identify trends, then they ask questions and — most importantly — listen to what customers want. Now you and I don’t have the budget to research the way Ronald does, but we do have the internet, and more often than not it’s a very lucrative place to dig for information. And all it takes is an investment in time.

What the big guys do with the information they attain, is they test it. On different people in different geographical regions to see if their latest marketing idea will be accepted. They ask questions, and use the responses to shape their ideas into being even more acceptable. And when they feel certain they have a winner, they plop it into their system and launch it. Sometimes it’s a massive hit (The Justin Timberlake infused ‘i’m loving’ it’ campaign launch). More often than not it’s a success (summer movie collaborations). And
sometimes they flop in many markets, but the moderate successes they do have can turn the product into once-in-a-while promotion (McGriddle and the McDLT).

The result is a business that continues to profit, grow and dominate their category. Worldwide and during any economic condition.

No wonder they’re known as The Golden Arches.

Who Nose the true Story?

Who Nose the Story?

Ten years into the great depression, the year is 1939, Bob looks across his shabby two room apartment at his wife lying on the couch; the same place she has been fighting terminal cancer for the last two years. His mind drifts towards the endless growing pit of medical bills that he cannot afford. Life is one day at a time. From across the room his little girl Barbara May, bounces onto his lap. Her innocent eyes peer into his;

“Daddy,” she asked, “Why isn’t my Mommy just like everybody else’s mommy?”

Robert L. May is no stranger to being different, growing up, he was much smaller than his peers, so for most of his childhood he too found himself left out and made fun of. These experiences and, his latest charge from his employer, Montgomery Ward, to write their 1939 children’s Christmas giveaway book, all culminated at this moment. Barbara put her head on her daddy’s shoulder and he began to tell this story that he would later write for Montgomery Ward:

“Once upon a time there was a reindeer named Rudolph — the only reindeer in the whole world that had a big, red nose. Naturally, people called him Rudolph, the Red – Nosed Reindeer.” You know the rest of the story…

In life most of us spend countless hours and dollars trying to fit in. We try to be like everyone else. We forget that it is those little key, and sometimes big differences, that truly set us apart. They make us beautiful, unique and special. In business, that difference is equally important. History has shown over and over that in times of recession this difference becomes even more critical. Customers are yearning for good value, a clear compelling reason to spend their hard earned dollars. In these tough times if every “apple” looks the same, customers always pick the cheapest one. Yet, in spite of hundreds of years of research and recorded history, an article from the November, 2008 issue of Profit Magazine further emphasizes this point. It states that only 7 out of 3000 chief executives were able to communicate a meaningful point of differentiation!

2011 is the time to effectively communicate what makes you different. The year is not about big advertising budgets and flashy marketing campaigns – its about having a clear understanding of your difference and communicating it effectively, one person at time. What is your story?……… Oh, yes, and lets not forget that kind hearted father, Robert L May, who wrote the classic Christmas story of the courageous little reindeer, with the glowing nose leading hundreds of thousands of children (and adults) to that destination of the celebration of what makes us different.

Merry Christmas and all the best in the New Year!

The Best Job on Earth!

The Best Job on Earth!

So here’s the skinny, you do the same job every year, work tonnes of overtime, deal with billions of clients, have huge manufacturing flows, wear a funny uniform, live at a freezing work camp, your boss gets all the credit, the nearest Starbucks is a thousand miles away, and you have the strictest delivery timetable in the world. Sound like a dream job? Well, for Santa’s 13 elves, there’s no better job on earth! Legend has it that over a thousand years ago under extreme persecution a group of elves left their homeland in Scandinavia to work for their distant relative at the North Pole. Today those same 13 elves, under the direction of their jolly old leader, continue to meet the tight deadline every time, and have the highest customer satisfaction ratings in the industry.

So with all the current challenges facing HR departments across the globe, how does Santa manage to retain his staff for hundreds of years? Santa remembers what too many of us forget, our first customer is our staff. Think about it, the average employee spends around 40 to 60% of their waking life at work, so once you get past the functional benefit of salary, what’s left to work for? And why should they do it for you? Things like self worth, making a difference, being a part of the big picture; pride and fulfillment come into play. Is your company effectively communicating these brand benefits? Again, looking to Santa, we see his external delivery of the brand promise of Hope, is being balanced by his internal motivation to every elf, that they play an integral part in fulfilling that promise – extending Hope. Just ask an elf what they do and they will instantly repeat the mantra, “I make toys for good little girls and boys, so that children around the world can have a Merry Christmas!” How powerful is that!

One of my favorite historical examples of this, though it may be an urban legend, is the story of an unannounced visit by President John F. Kennedy to the space center at Cape Canaveral in the mid 1960’s. Kennedy toured the complex and met a janitor mopping the floors. “What do you do here?” he asked. A big smile came across the face of the janitor, who replied, “Mr. President, I’m helping to put a man on the moon.”

Most of us will not be making toys for all the good little girls and boys or putting a man on the moon this Christmas, however, make the time to inspire your staff, your first customer, and while you’re at it, a little Christmas cheer never hurts.

Merry Christmas!

Santa’s Even Bigger Than Coke!

Santa’s even bigger than Coke!

As Forbes put it: “He runs a multinational enterprise that combines uncanny customer intelligence, superb information management and world-class service. He leads a logistical tour de force that spans the globe and delivers the goods, just in time. And he does it all with a warm – some would say jolly – panache that is impossible to forget. His name: Santa Claus.” Santa’s Identity is so powerful that Best Global Brand of 2006, Coca-Cola (brand evaluated at 67-billion dollars by Interbrand) could not hold him back.

Little known to most is that 2006 was the 75 anniversary of the famous Coca-Cola Santa that was created in 1931. Before this makeover Santas image was loosely based on a combination of many ideas. In 1931 Coke commissioned the illustrator Haddon Sundblom to create an Image of Santa for their new advertising campaign and Santa has looked the same ever since.

Today Santa is ubiquitous, no one remembers that Santa and Coke were at one time partners, as a matter of arguable fact, Santa’s even bigger than Coke! He is the envy of Identity Engineers, brand managers, marketing professionals and students worldwide.

Take a look at Santa’s brand, he represents hard work, reward, and goodness. He is a jolly, fair, and giving person, his generosity is contagious. He is a global leader in the category of Hope, and he has a consistent delivery of this brand promise. He knows his customer so well…..he knows when they are sleeping and he knows when their awake. He makes them feel special. Santa is the king of consistency, he wears the same red outfit every year, he doesn’t try to change it and he’s never tempted to go on a diet.

Santa has never spent a penny on advertising, he fully understands the Customer Journey, he has advocates in place (parents) who start managing the journey right from their childrens very first christmas, even if, heaven forbid, parents stop believing, they will continue to advocate because they know they will benefit from their childrens good behavior. He is bar none, the worlds most sought after spokesperson every brand wants to associate with him. Everyone supports his mission and he is in a large part responsible for hundreds of billions in sales and charitable donations every year.

So what can we learn from this? I believe William Arruda said it best “take some tips from the man in the red suit. Stand out. Be consistent. Create an emotional connection. Remain visible to your target audience. And don’t forget to surround yourself with brand evangelists who can carry your message for you. Whether you believe in him or not, Santa is a model for branding that we can all strive to attain.”

Merry Christmas!


Ok so where to start? It’s hard to just dive into cold calls, even warm calls so I suggest the warm email to your advocates. So who are your advocates? In business they are past and present clients, associates, vendors and partners that would actively refer you business if the opportunity arose. In personal life they are the people that believe in you and know your character qualities. Make a list of those people and draft an outline of your email, here is my outline:

Still playing Volleyball? (Subject specific to Bob)


Hey I was playing ball last week I ran into Susie and your name came up……(personal message)

• I don’t know if you heard but I got blind sided with an emergency that took me out of commission for 11 months! So I’m taking the first step and getting back out there, meeting people and making connections, sales (helping). So I am asking for referrals, leads, starting points etc. You never know where new business will come from and no new connection or meeting is a waste of time.

Do you have any suggestions or referrals that could turn a cold call into a warm call? Any names leads or contacts would be very helpful.

Let me know if I can say that you gave me their contact info, or if you just think that there are a few you think would be a good fit that I should call without your connection that would be great too.

Thanks for your help, friendship and your business


ps. would love to do coffee in the next few weeks.

So that was my draft, the key here is that you have to write each and every e-mail, NEVER SEND OUT SPAM!!!! Every email has to be specific to every person you send it to, subject and content, the outline is only an outline.

I had a 100% response rate with approximately 70% of my advocates sending 3 or more contacts in their response e-mail, plus, to my surprise most of them even took the time to personally make the e-mail introduction to their contacts for me. In the first two weeks after the warm emails, I had landed an A list account. At week 5 I am still booking all the new meetings.

Back to the basics of Sales (HELPING).

Returning to the office after a year of struggling through a family emergency, I realized that It was quite a bit harder to get back into it than I thought. The confidence level was down and my personal well of contacts leads and inquiries had all but dried up. It was like starting all over again, except this time I had the tools. The question being, do the tools work? Well as the President of the company I have been writing, talking, teaching, and preaching sales (what we call HELPING) for the last 12 years. The fact is, I haven’t actually been involved much in our sales for years now….too busy, someone else’s job, excuse, excuse, excuse. So as of today I’m going to put my money where my mouth is and practice what I preach. What’s in it for you? Well I’m going to blog about it and try to be as honest as possible. They may not be the most eloquent posts, or well written (sorry mom), but it will motivate me and hopefully HELP others at the same time.

Step 1: Warm Emails that ask for Referrals.

“We have a philosophy and a strategy. When times are tough, you build share.”


“We have a philosophy and a strategy. When times are tough, you build share.” — Procter & Gamble CEO A.G. Laffley

As this CEO of P&G points out, making it during a recession is largely about adopting a fearless attitude, a well thought-out plan and the courage to believe-in your approach, then combine them all and move boldly forward. 


Yes, this is coming from a (seemingly) recession-proof soap producer, however what they understand is something most businesses don’t. The fear that grips businesses in a recession is a massive opportunity.  During times of slowdown, the marketing landscape becomes less intense so there are less players competing, and advertising rates drop.  This means marketing messages are more easily noticed by consumers. This. In turn,  provides those brands that continue to invest, the opportunity to capture new mind — and market — share. 


This can have a two-fold effect on the category, because brands that continue to market themselves win-over their competitor’s customers and gain valuable momentum after the recovery. 


For instance, during the recession of The 70’s, Toyota was already offering a fuel efficient product line that complemented the high fuel prices of the day. Yet the industry was anything but recession-proof. (Who buys a new car when they don’t know how much longer they’ll have a job?) However, instead of cutting their advertising they stayed on the marketing offensive.  Shortly after the economy recovered in the mid seventies, Toyota went from the third to top import in the critical car-hungry market of the USA. 20-plus years later, they did what many once thought was the impossible: they overtook General Motors as the world’s largest car producer. 


Clean, clear-cut approaches to marketing during times of downturn can wash away competition and allow you to float to the top. Both during and after a recession.

Branding on Sale!

“It is well documented that brands that increase advertising during a recession, when competitors are cutting back, can improve market share and return-on-investment at lower cost than during good economic times.”

— John A. Quelch, Professor, Harvard Business School

An ivory tower kind of guy who most of us small business people can’t relate too. But we can — in fact should — apply his wisdom. While Harvard’s Professor Quelch uses the word ‘advertising’, if we apply the broader term ‘marketing’ this wise quote still holds water.  Particularly these days. Economic online marketing opportunities abound, but for our money, nothing beats getting out there and getting in front of people sympathetic to, supportive of, or — best of all — advocating, your cause.

Word-of mouth is not only the lowest cost form of advertising, it’s the most effective. And in this rapidly evolving, morphing, and twittering digital time we find ourselves, it’s never been easier for one individual to reach and influence others.

The greatest investment to make word-of-mouth work for you is time. Time to do your job well. Time to spend listening to your customers. Time to improve what you do, and then — most relevant to this post — taking the time to talk about you, what you do and you can play a supportive, beneficial role in the lives of others.

If we are honest and authentic, we will be successful.

If others tell their friends about us, then we’re on our way to the top of our class.

Branding in the Recession lists 17 recessions since the Great Depression.  So it’s not the first time we’ve been here, the exciting thing is we can look back and learn some things from it. 

One of the key themes in all of my research into it is that the Great Depression brought people together. It became one of the unique times in history where money actually brought people together instead of tearing them apart. So this blog is one of the places we can start to do just that.

This recession is a huge opportunity for companies that can afford to prudently invest in their branding/marketing communications. Brian Meckler states in his article “Marketing In A Recession” that “a study of business-to-business companies during the 1981 recession states that businesses that increased their advertising expenditures during that time saw an increase in sales of over 200% compared to those that cut. This is most likely due to their competition deciding to decrease their advertising budget. Now is the time when customers want to hear from you and learn how you can make their lives better.”

Like I said business is about people relationships and the long term, all of those relationships can start with a handshake and taking the time to listen. I always try to take the time to make introductions and meet with new people. There are so many great true stores of the amazing connections, ideas and plans that came about just by taking the time to say hi.