Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Don't Fix What's Not Broken

First off today, big thanks to Chase Squires,  Senior Public Affairs Specialist with the University of Denver.  I posted his press release in yesterday's post as a great example of being proactive with your public relations efforts and press releases. 

A second big thank you goes out to Republic Airlines for leaving well enough alone.  For those of you not following the Republic Airlines/Frontier Airlines saga, there was a bit of good news earlier this week. 

Most residents of Denver are very familiar with the cute and fuzzy Frontier animals.  The bear, the fox, the rabbit and others, created by Frontier several years ago as part of a massive advertising and marketing campaign.  Under the slogan "A whole new animal," Frontier literally created a monster of a campaign that attracted followers and fans worldwide.

Yet all of that was in jeopardy once Republic Airways purchased Frontier.  There were rumors and rumblings that the animals would be, in blunt terms, put down, to make way for a new marketing campaign designed to rebrand the newly combined airline.

This made people, well, upset.  And we're not just talking industry experts, or employees, or frequent Frontier patrons.  I'm talking about people, like myself, who never fly Frontier, or for that matter, rarely fly at all.  It wasn't about the sale of Frontier, that was most likely inevitable to keep it viable.  It wasn't even about the success of the campaign, which, by most accounts was successful, but didn't do a lot to keep the struggling airline from nearly going under.

The fact was, we simply liked the animals.  Certainly, there might be better marketing campaigns out there, and Republic will have to look at ways to attract more travelers.  But by saving the animals, Republic didn't just give a tip of the hat to a very unique and somewhat successful marketing campaign, they made a brilliant PR move as well.

This article from Denver's 5280 magazine's blog illustrates this point well.  

Why Saving the Animals Is Smart PR

"You don’t need an expert in public relations to tell you that Republic Airways scored big in deciding to preserve the brand of its recent acquisition, Frontier Airlines. The outpouring of online support at places like the Save the Frontier Animals Facebook page said it all. Nobody seems too upset that Republic’s Wisconsin-based Midwest Airlines’ brand would be replaced by a Frontier airplane with a badger, Wisconsin’s state animal, on the tail."

Of course, as always, click on the link to see the entire entry.  But back to the point.  Frontier had a lot of issues, but the animals campaign wasn't one of them.  It was one of the few efforts that Frontier made that could be considered truly innovative and a marketing stroke of genius.

Now, will the animals bring in more travelers?  Will it help lower prices?  Will it make going through airport security any easier?  Will it fix the economy and lead to droves of Americans hopping flights across the country this summer?  Most likely, no. 

But Republic understood one thing when it chose to save the animals.  They understood that, despite some of Frontier's failings, the did have at least one thing going for them; brand recognition.  Show most people a commercial of a talking rabbit or talking dolphin or singing penguins, and they'll probably be able to tell you almost immediately, it belongs to Frontier.

In simpler terms, it wasn't broke, so Republic decided not to fix it.  From a marketing standpoint, it will be interesting to see how the animals are integrated into Republic's message and other established campaigns.  But from a PR standpoint, it couldn't have been a bigger homerun.

Particularly from a Denver and regional angle, the animals represented a brand that was easily recognized and represented the brand and the region in an entertaining way.  In other words, the campaign was ours, it belonged to us.  Even if we didn't use Frontier regularly, if at all, we still valued and revered Frontier as ours.  It was one of the few Denver-based airlines and serviced our region for many years.

Had Republic come in and started making wholesale changes, including getting rid of the animals, it would have smacked of an outsider thinking they know better than the local yokels.  It doesn't matter if the campaign was probably created by an East Coast firm (although I don't know that).  What matters is that Frontier was, and is, a big part of the Denver community, and the animals were a part of that community outreach.

Had we lost the animals, it's likely it would have angered many in the Denver area and surrounding region.  That and the fact that the animals are a nationally known entity, it would have been a huge mistake for Republic to scrap the animals.  For once, it seems, a national company made the correct choice, and the good PR that is resulting is a geat way to start a new venture.

What This Means To You:

As small businesses and non-profits you can learn something from Republic's decision to keep the animals.  Take a look at your organization.  Certainly there are things you'd like to fix or change.  But take a moment to identify the things that really work.  Look at your image or your branding.  What immediately comes to mind when people think about your organization?

Creating an image or brand recognition can be difficult to do.  But once you have created that element, there's no reason to change it, unless your organization undergoes a significant change in direction or philosphy.

Once again, I will point to Apple for this example.  Apple has created their brand recognition and image based on catering to a select audience.  Yes, they are outsold by Microsoft and Dell, but they see no need to change their direction.  As a Mac guy myself, I would be angered and disapointed if they went the route of PC's and started opening up their platform to outside software.  I like the fact that Apple is proprietary and so user friendly.  If they changed, they'd be just like every other computer out there, which would negatively impact Apple's bottom line.

Of course, this means you have to create an image for your organization.  If you don't have one, create one.  This can come in the form of a marketing campaign, a public relations push, even a social media campaign.

Start With Social Media:

In fact, a social media campaign is probably the best place to start.  Using your various platforms, you can begin creating an image or campaign that can become immediately recognizable.  You could use a character (like the Frontier animals), or a tagline or slogan or a style of writing or video production.  There are a million different ways to create your image and grow brand recognition and loyalty. 

Using social media is just one of the ways to create buzz about your new image, but it's also the most accessible to small businesses and non-profits because of its low cost.  Clearly it's more affordable than paying for a large advertising and marketing campaign.

So go out and find those traits that are working within your organization and start building on those positives to build your image and brand.  If you're a deli, become the home of the world's best Rueben.  If you're a garage, maybe Arty the Auto becomes your spokeperson.  Make sure your image and brand reflects the type of audience you're trying to reach and then go all out to spread the word. 

Of course, your PR efforts should also reflect your new image and also develop brand recognition. Just make sure that once you've built your image and brand, once it's working to attract attention, don't go back later to try and fix what ain't broken. 

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