I remember 23 years ago when the Red River flooded in Grand Forks. It was devastating. Homes and businesses were lost. It was a financial and personal tragedy of epic proportions. At the time, I was selling for a manufacturer, and I remember one of my lawn and garden retail customers in Grand Forks taking an interesting approach to marketing. While many of their local competitors were cutting back (assuming that people were conserving resources for must-have items only), they refused to sit idle and actually increased their marketing and branding efforts. The result? The three months following the flood were by far the retailer’s best quarter – ever (at least through 2007, when I left the company.) When I visit that store today, they are an obvious category leader. I can’t help but think that this can be partially attributed to their insistence on zigging while everyone else zagged. By continuing to build their brand in uncertain times, they captured both market share and mind share.
When we get through this turmoil (and we will – it’s just a matter of time), I think I owe it to the people who continue to run that retail store today to drop by. I’d like to buy them a cup of coffee and thank them for the valuable lesson. It’s served me well.