New Year: Time To Revert Back To The Old Ways

With each new year, marketing professionals and individuals alike tout the new year as a chance to refresh, revitalize and revamp. To turn everything previously done on its head and start anew. Every once in a while, though, there comes a time when this method is rarely effective and scarcely feasible. This is one of those years. So, in 2009, we charge you with a new, but old, mission: revert to the old ways. No, we don’t mean gain back the 20 pounds you just lost or take up smoking again, but return to a simpler and more sensitive time in marketing: The Great Depression. No, seriously.

While we were researching for our upcoming article in Greater Columbia Business Monthly about marketing in a recession, we stumbled upon some ingenious marketing strategies from none other than the early 1930’s. In a not-so-recent but oh-so-relevant October Business Week article, Stacy Perman asked nine companies still in operation today how they survived the Depression. We encourage you to check the individual stories out, but here are a few of the highlights:

Cornell Iron Works stepped, or was pushed, out of their comfort zone by taking on projects beyond their normal scope of specialty and structural ironwork, agreeing to craft doors on sanitation trucks and security doors on New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

A.E. Schmidt, manufacturer of billiards and bowling supplies, reached right out to one of this target audiences, scoring a list of government work camps from the U.S. Commerce Department and sending samples of his products to each. Pool tables caught on with the workers and drummed up interest in the company. Though A.E. did have to make a few pay cuts and layoffs, the Depression left a lasting mark on their business principles. Current CEO Kurt Schmidt said “when you go and ask for cuts for your employees, you better be willing to take one yourself and take it first. That is something we still stick with.”

Oh, if only Kurt was in the automobile industry. These are just a few success stories from the most lethal economic crisis our country ever faced, but both of them show what got them through it: diversification of products and services, creative and close-to-home marketing and genuine CEO sacrifices. In 2009, it’s time to look back.