New Questions Require New Answers

For years, my two biggest advertising clients were an auto dealer and a mortgage company. It will come as no surprise to anyone who reads the business press that the credit crunch has badly damaged both of them. My auto dealer had seven stores a couple of years ago — now he has two. My mortgage company is still kicking, but has had to cut back significantly as well.

It’s easy to assume, in these times, that there’s no new business out there. But in the past six months, I’ve found that there are real opportunities for smart business people. Some are brand-new categories; some are ideas that have been around for years; and some are just new ways of presenting existing products.

The most successful advertising answers a question that the prospect is already asking. Here are some businesses that are doing just that, and seeing strong returns on their marketing dollars:

1. People contemplating their own mortality are wondering how their families will be able to afford burial expenses. Whole body donation companies have an answer. Many people who wish to donate their organs won’t qualify because of the state of their health when they die. Others are worried about burial expenses, especially in tough times. Meanwhile, medical schools, labs and tissue banks need cadavers and body parts. For-profit companies now serve the needs of both sides. They will pick a body up, send needed parts to the facilities who need them, cremate what’s left, and return the ashes to the family. In general, the company picks up all expenses, which can save a family several thousand dollars. There are two of these companies in Portland, and both have gotten strong, measurable results from their advertising.

2. Some homeowners are wondering how they can save their homes. Companies specializing in loan modification have an answer. I put a law firm on the air last Monday. The firm specializes in negotiating with banks and mortgage companies on behalf of homeowners facing foreclosure. I wasn’t expecting much from the first week, and had warned the client not to expect instant results. On Friday morning, I called the client to check in, and was stunned to learn that they had 13 loan modifications in process that had come directly from the radio campaign. I would have been delighted with 13 inquiries, but these were people who had actually come in, met with an attorney, and started the paperwork.

3. Car buyers are wondering what will happen if they lose their jobs and can’t afford the payments. Hyundai heard the question, and came up with their own answer. In January, they launched the Hyundai Assurance program. The short explanation is that if you finance a car with Hyundai and lose your income in the first year, Hyundai will take it back. When January auto sales figures out, most manufacturers reported double-digit sales drops. Hyundai posted a 14.3% increase.

New questions from consumers require new answers from businesses. The companies above have stepped up to the challenge, and they are succeeding in the downturn. How about you?


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2 thoughts on “New Questions Require New Answers

  1. Phil – Thanks for including Doug Garnett’s comments from Laura Oppenheimer’s article. I also agree that there are opportunitities for new business in the downtown. I’ve had a slew of promising meetings with companies interested in writing articles.


    Jack Rubinger
    Media Relations