Archive for the ‘The Great Recession’ Category


Recession over?

November 29, 2010

The WSJ reports corporate profits near historic high last quarter. Did you feel it? Are you clients lining up to do business? Is your paycheck growing?

The real question we need to ask ourselves is “what next?” If the economy is on the rebound, how are we going to respond. Everyone is talking about the New Normal, a time of more conservative expectations, reduced workforce, and tight budgets — how will that impact how we strategize and execute?

You probably changed how you operated during the recession. Is that change  permanent? Can your business operate on less and do more?

Businesses face a host of challenges in this New Normal. However, it also represents a chance to gain competitive advantage and be prepared for the inevitable boom years (and the bust that always follows). Smart investments made during the slow times should pay off soon. Changes to business practices that made you more efficient can yield higher profits going forward.

Fundamentally, the smartest businesses came out of the past four years thinking and operating in a whole new fashion. It is business evolution at work – and the strongest will survive.


Hospital Wars

August 8, 2010

Lately I have noticed an increased visibility of hospital brands in my part of town. For those that know the Seattle area, I live on the “East Side” — across Lake Washington. This is the Bellevue/Redmond/Kirkland area — the dreaded suburbs to many a city-dwelling person. The skewed perceptions of suburbia (and of the city) is another topic.

The area is dominated by a few named hospitals: Swedish and Seattle Children’s on the Seattle side of the lake; Overlake and Evergreen on the East side. Each of these stayed on their respective side of provided outstanding healthcare to the region (disclosure: Seattle Children’s is a wonderful client of my agency).

Recently, even in the midst of the Great Recession, all of these institutions have begun to expand. (I realize that the plans for these expansions were likely launched well before the current economic disaster and we are just now seeing the benefit. Seattle Children’s recently opened a facility in Bellevue. Swedish is expanding their small presence in Issaquah into a full hospital and building an ER/Outpatient center in Redmond. Evergreen is building a new facility with ER and primary care in Redmond. Overlake continues to add to its main location in Bellevue. I have gotten three different hospital flyers in the mail in the last month or so.

I am certainly not complaining about this increased availability of world-class medical care. Yay for more hospitals! What interests me is the brand fight going on. How am I supposed to elevaluate the relative value of a brand that is dedicated to health and well-being? What are the decision factors necessary to choose one over the other? Location seems to be everything, but there is a subtle battle here and it is about the placement of each brand along some continuum.

Seattle Children’s clearly is for “children” (well, under 21), but the others rely on a little bit of shared myth and memory about their relative strengths. I don’t have any facts, but Swedish has always been about surgery and babies in my mind. Evergreen, where my daughter was born, is my “local” hospital and gives me lots of glowing feelings. Overlake is where I go to get tests.

What does this all mean? Well, we have a surfeit of good choices in front of us. Everyone seems to win when hospitals exert their brand muscle. My colleague Henk Groenewald recently touched on a similar topic in his blog — How do you brand the invisible — check it out.

(The visit yesterday to the Evergreen Urgent Care because my daughter had a manicure stick pierce her foot contributed to the thinking about this post.)


Watching Obama

March 21, 2009

The unprecedented appearance of a sitting President on “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno represents a real change in how government in this country “markets” itself. I was 90% impressed and 10% worried.

The 90% comes from the fact that this administration finally realizes that society has changed and the way we communicate has changed along with it. We are not a nation that only reads The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. We are a nation that consumes its news from the Internet and TV. We are a nation that considers “The Daily Show” a credible source (and it is – Cramer v Stewart will likely turn out to be a watershed moment in the Great Recession). Our President and his team realizes that you don’t just visit Leno when you are campaigning, you visit him when you need to communicate to the masses. (Or, perhaps they realize that you never stop campaigning; you are just campaigning for something different once in office).

The President did an excellent job of appearing smart, confident, funny and “Presidential” and still finding a way to connect with the audience. He gives Jay Leno a shake/buddy hug when he comes on stage and that fundamentally shifts how we perceive our leader. President Obama is a man, not a figurehead. He is really one of us. I wanted to listen and believe and be inspired, just as I did throughout the campaign.

My little worries, the 10%, come from the fact that as a nation we don’t all balance our media diet. Too many people rely on only Jon Stewart and Facebook for their information. Our children don’t all realize that you need to drink deeply from the well of information in order to get the full picture. I want our President on late night TV and on Sesame Street. I also want my kid to read The New York Times.

The burden rests on all of us to be smart marketing consumers just as the burden rests on the President to reach out to us through every relevant channel.


Why I love Nordstrom

February 21, 2009

Sometimes simple and thoughtful efforts on the part of a business can go a long way towards winning the hearts of customers. In this difficult economic time I have been watching how various businesses have approached this issue. Somehow Nordstrom, clearly an up market retailer, is finding a way to position itself appropriately with customers in the midst of the Great Recession. The below letter appears inside the cover of the latest Nordstrom catalog to arrive in my mail.

We at Nordstrom recognize that these are challenging times for us all. Now more than ever, we feel it’s important for us as a company to focus on what we can do to make a difference to you, our customer.

We know the things you appreciate every day, like great quality and outstanding value, are even more important to you right now. So we wanted you to know that our buyers are working hard to find the best items and best values from the brands you love. In fact, it’s our long-standing tradition to offer you the best possible prices, every day of the year. We do it by pricing all of out items fairly to begin with – without relying on one-day sales, discounts, coupons or other gimmicks. And, we constantly shop other stores so that we can guarantee you the best price on our merchandise.

The bottom line is: you’ll never pay more at Nordstrom. And if, by chance, you ever find one of our items priced lower somewhere else, or you receive a coupon that discounts any item we offer, just let us know. We’ll gladly beat that price.

We think of these extraordinary times as yet another chance to earn your business. And, we sincerely hope that your pleasure in shopping at Nordstrom always equals ours in serving you.


Blake Nordstrom, Pete Nordstrom, Erik Nordstrom

Even in these trying times we will all allow ourselves a little luxury now and then. I know where I will go when I do. And, I know where I will shop when the good times roll again.


Try again please

February 11, 2009

I just completed a phone survey for Bank of America (I am a customer, maybe even a “loyal” one). The primary focus of the survey was about my home equity line. Most of the questions focused on how satisfied I was with the experience of using my line of credit (pretty satisfied) and any problems that I might have had in the recent past (not any).

Clearly BofA is eager to find out how their customers perceive them right now. Since most consumers think of banks as the storefront of the Anti-Christ it is not surprising that they are out doing fine market research. I was honest in my answers.

After she went through the script about my home equity line she threw in a few additional questions. These were really interesting.

  • Rate how I perceive the current housing market
  • Rate how I perceive mortgage brokers
  • Have there been any foreclosures in my neighborhood that I know about in the last 3 months

My answers went from very positive for all the BofA questions to very negative for the perception questions (don’t know of any foreclosures in our area).

I can see the slide deck when this is all done:

BofA customer are very happy with their home equity products, but they are not so happy with the economy. Clearly we need more Federal money so we can afford to make more home equity loans.