Chicken Little and Advertising

by Molly Clubb | Feb 01, 2009

Chicken Little and Advertising: Why you should keep advertising during a Recession

This article originally appeared in the February 2009 Texas Longhorn Journal

Depending on what version of Chicken Little you’ve seen, heard or read, it usually starts off something like this:



“One day Chicken Little was walking in the woods when — KERPLUNK — an acorn fell on her head. ‘Oh my goodness!’ said Chicken Little. ‘The sky is falling! I must go and tell everyone…’

As the story progresses, Chicken Little tells everyone she meets along her path that the sky is indeed falling, getting her entire village into a tizzy. Then, depending on the version of the story, a variety of endings result. The most popular moral of the story being that courageous persons outlast and prevail – rather than “chickens.”

So how does this relate to advertising? Aside from the catchy repetitive line: “the sky is falling” and the two-syllabled rhyming names, it actually parallels advertising through a recession quite well. As many of us may already know, in today’s economy, it’s very easy to start running around with the rest of the Chicken Littles, including those who were first to see the sky falling. With this shaping up to be one of the nastiest recessions that the US has seen since the 1970’s it would be easy to stop all “unnecessary” spending, decline activity in all hobbies and loose all optimism. But as business owners and successful cattle ranchers you have obligations and responsibilities to both your business and your interests – whichever of those categories your Longhorns fall into.

If you’re like most, you’re in the business of raising Longhorns not only because you love the breed but also because they have the potential to show a tremendous return on investment. Deep down, you know that keeping your herd on even keel through economic crises will call for hard work, dedication and determined optimism. And, if you’re like most you want the Longhorn Industry to succeed as well as your own herd.

If so, just consider the tips and key strategies below a little acorn on the head for how you can fight the struggling economy while keeping current partners and investors engaged, replacing those who disperse or cut back, and ensuring the soundness of your own herd.

Don’t go “Cockey Lockey” – continue to be visible!

Fight your urge to run and hide or to hide your checkbook. It’s been proven that dollars really do go farther during slow times. There are thousands of businesses out there serving as examples of companies that maintained or increased their advertising budgets during recessions and found that at recession’s end, they were horns and horns past their competitors.

A McGraw-Hill Research study of over 600 Businesses found that from 1981-1982 business that maintained or increased their ad spend during this time averaged higher sales growth during the recession and in the following 3 years!  And, by 1985, sales had risen 256% for those businesses that maintained or increased their ad spend during that recession over those that had cut back on advertising. Likewise in 2001, another study found that aggressive recession advertisers increased market share 2 ½ times the average for all businesses in the post-recession.

Being visible in the Breed isn’t just about placing ads, it’s about making yourself seen and known as well. Make sure that you’re still attending events, going to sales (even if you’re not buying or selling) and networking throughout the Industry. Staying connected and visible will only help to maintain the integrity of your breeding program.

Pinch your “Henny Pennies” – Make the Most of your Budget.

Rather than hiding your checkbook, put your focus on getting the most out of your advertising. During hard times especially, you should focus on advertising with clean and proven return on investment. Event and consignment advertising, the Internet, word-of-mouth, partnerships and constant contact are all proven to keep your ROI going strong, no matter the times.

In our Industry one of the best opportunities for advertising a clear, trackable message is event or consignment advertising. Your ad itself is clean and to the point featuring the animal(s) that you’re consigning with standard pedigree and ranch/contact information. The ROI is very easy to measure with the set costs of consignment and commission, hauling, lodging, etc. If you listen to any of the experts in the Longhorn Industry and consign cattle that will thrive at sales, cattle that are at the top of your breeding program, then your ROI – no matter the market or the economy – will be rewarding thus making the most of your advertising budget.

When utilizing advertising that promotes your sale consignments it’s important to take advantage of pre- and post-sale advertising. During pre-sale advertising you want to promote your animals’ strengths and remind readers of the sale date and location. In post-sale advertising it’s important to thank the buyer(s) but also promote the value that your animal will add to their breeding program and the sale price.  This is also a good time to advertise any related animals, offspring, embryos or semen that you offer that others who may have bid on the animal or like what they see may contact you about purchasing.

Internet advertising also shows outstanding ROI. Many news sources are stating that the Internet seems to be resilient to economic downturns. Consider ramping up your on-line efforts. If you don’t have a website now is the time to invest in one. If you don’t advertise or readily promote your website now is also the time to promote it. If you don’t regularly check and analyze your site statistics now is the time! Remember how important it is to deliver measurable results?  There isn’t a medium more measurable than online!

The Internet can also help increase the frequency of your contacts with established customers and breeders for little or no charge through electronic newsletters. Now is also the time to continue to find directories or the website of other breeders where you can post a link to your website. This will help to increase your web rankings and Internet exposure.

Another great option for spreading the word that’s easy on the pocket book is stimulating your word-of-mouth support. It’s the least expensive and the most credible form of advertising around!

If you’re a breeder that may not be as well known, consider looking for high-quality strategic partnerships with better-known breeders. Whether it’s simply that you’re referring people to each others breeding programs or have purchased the next big thing together – make sure that it’s a win-win situation and that you have equal incentive to refer good customers. Take time to develop meaningful partnerships. Don’t be afraid to ask those who have had success in the breed for an assessment of your herd or their “seal of approval.”

Don’t go “Goosey Loosey” – maintain your brands integrity

Although it may seem like now is the time try new approaches or change your image to get more attention it’s not. Thinking long term is important for brands. Brands with a strategic perspective come out of recessions stronger and the weaker brands fall by the wayside.

Beware of “Foxy Loxies” – stick with what you know!

Recessions may also seem like the time to try new, foolproof products and ways to engage buyers or breeders but they’re not. Many companies will spring up over the course of the next year or two offering a sure fire way to help you solve your problems. Whether they are offering advertising that’s “guaranteed” or the “most hits you’ll ever receive on your website” – buyer be ware! <!--[endif]-->

Just as in one version of the story where Foxy Loxy lead Chicken Little, Cockey Lockey, Henny Penny, and Goosey Loosey into his den to eat them for lunch, these companies are also not to be trusted.

Another version of the Chicken Little story ends with Foxy Loxy being chased away by the Kings dogs and “…after that day, Chicken Little always carried an umbrella with her when she walked in the woods. The umbrella was a present from the king. And if — KERPLUNK — an acorn fell, Chicken Little didn't mind a bit. In fact, she didn't notice it at all.”

The moral of this story? Let the companies and people that you already know and work with be your umbrella and you’ll come through just fine.

Molly Clubb

Molly is the owner of Mo Co. Creative Services and Hired Hand Software. Molly serves many breeders in the Industry and grew up raising and showing Longhorns.

This article is not meant to offer financial advice.  

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