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Big Decisions for Brands in 2023

by Taylor Bennett

2023 is being coined as the year of uncertainty for brands. Headlines that I’ve read talk about a major recession, layoffs, a major cool down in the housing market and inflation higher than it’s been in over thirty years. What’s a brand to do? 

2023 is also our twentieth year in business, and through twenty years you learn a lot. Based on our past two decades, one thing is certain during these uncertain times–a client needs to have a tighter-than-tight relationship with their agency. You have to know each other beyond a surface level engagement if you’re going to make decisions and time those decisions just right. And in times like these, timing is everything.

In 2007 – our fourth year in business – we were working with our founding client, Belgard, on their first ever consumer ad campaign and national media buy. We were rolling! We had secured a buy with HGTV Dream Home, and developed clutter busting creative and local plans for all local markets. At the time, most of the installs for Belgard were on new homes and we were spreading the hardscape gospel including patios, walkways, pool decks and driveways spec’d with Belgard for your new home. The goal was to create the “Kleenex” of Hardscapes. 

On New Year’s Eve, the campaign launched and our teams were toasting all over the country. We did it! The number three Hardscape Brand in the US launched the brand to homeowners all across the country. The next nine months sales were through the roof and we were well on our way to victory. 

Enter the 2009 recession. “Outdoor Living” was born. Overnight home building came to a screeching halt. The industry was scrambling and – for about four days of emails, texts, phone calls, pencil roughs, and ideas – so were we. 

I remember the phone call vividly. It was the call that changed the Belgard brand forever. Ken O’Niell, the then VP of Marketing for Belgard, our media strategist and I were on one of many calls. Ken said, “I want to increase the budget.” “You want to do what?” I asked, just to make sure I heard him correctly. “Yea I am going to increase the budget, and I need y’all to figure out how we change course to get from number 3 to number 1 as fast as possible,” he said. What I later learned was that if we didn’t get to number one then we would’ve been fired.

So, we got to work. We leaned in hard on “Outdoor Living”  – a phrase most people had never heard of –, and voila, adding outdoor spaces to your home was born. After nine months of advertising, Belgard went from the number three hardscape brand in America to the number one brand.

Three things allowed this to happen:

  • A client was willing to invest in the face of uncertainty. He had this vision past the fear.
  • The competitors stopped spending, thinking and innovating. They rested.
  • We innovated, changed course and moved quickly.

In the early parts of 2023, it feels similar to that time. The decisions you make will define the future success of your brand. Just look at Netflix, Airbnb and Mailchimp. All three companies focused their efforts and capitalized massively during the last recession, and are now household names. 

Stay disciplined in your approach to advertising. Go all in when others are pulling back and you’ll gain more market share than you’ve ever dreamed of.