Actually, in Subaru's case, their sales actually increased by 1% in '08 (through November), in the midst of the worst slump in memory for automakers. Living here in Detroit and witnessing the people-impact of the Detroit 3's strategy and actions generates even more respect for Subaru's accomplishment.
So what has this mid-market car brand actually done, and what type of impact might this have on other industry sectors?
An article in a recent MediaPost News report reveals that Subaru has made many moves that are paying dividends.
First, they hired the right team. As Tim Mahoney, Subaru's senior VP and CMO notes, putting together the right group of execs which equates to "rebuilding a sports team." In most businesses these days, companies are jettisoning key staffers.
They started universal agency briefings, eliminating the tendency for every agency and buyer getting a different story.
They focused their marketing on brand attributes. "It's What Makes a Subaru, a Subaru" highlighted engineering excellence, a "green" priority, safety, and active driving - all qualities that help their brand stand apart.
They have a customer focus. They talk about owners of Subarus - their values and how the automaker matches up with its customers. Utilizing a process called "beaconing" (that sounds an awful lot like the "peopletizing" concept that Ben McConnell advocates), Subaru also launched a "Love Letters Viral Video" campaign, highlighted around the debut of the new Forester.
They have a community focus. Their "Share the Love" effort made $250 donations to a car buyer's choice of five different charities.
They market. Maybe not as much as Toyota or Ford, but they are focusing efforts on digital to reach their customers. And they have beefed up their website to better reflect their core buyers.
One of the lessons all of us can learn from 2008 is that there were some companies that got it right. If the new year is going to at least start similarly to what we've experience in the past several months, how can radio and any other industry develop a new set of recessionary "best practices" in order to stay alive, vibrant, and get through the hard times? If everyone's slashing expenses, cutting marketing, and getting leaner and meaner, where is the strategy that can help set brands and companies apart?
More on this issue in upcoming JacoBlogs.