We talked to Greg Keating of Hangar12 about its advertising and marketing services during the pandemic.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Greg Keating: Doing as good as we can be! We are socially distancing, limiting travel, and staying healthy. Our lives haven’t been upended as much as some others out there, so we are enjoying as much of the warm weather as possible up here in Minneapolis.
Tell us about you, your career, how you joined Hangar12
Greg Keating: I am currently the Director of Sales & Operations for Hangar12. I got my undergraduate degree in Marketing & Supply Chain Management from the University of Illinois – Gies College of Business. I spent some time with Coca-Cola working in the supply chain, and then joined Ecolab working on project management & data analytics. I recently went back and got my MBA with a focus on data analytics from the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis. Ultimately, I decided that working with my dad was too appealing to pass up, so I joined Hangar12 in 2018.
Hangar12 is a family agency currently owned by my father, Kevin Keating. He got into the business working with his father, Jack, in 1990 as Co-Account Executives at UVG&N, a creative agency in Chicago. Even though Jack was planning to retire in a year or two, they instead tripled their business and worked together for the next 12 years. In 2000, Kevin purchased the agency and grew its services in CPG marketing and package design. We’ve since pivoted more into the digital space working on social media and shopper marketing.
How does Hangar12 innovate?
Greg Keating: Hangar12 shifted to a completely remote model in 2015 after having an office in the West Loop of Chicago for a number of years. This obviously proved to be a bit ahead of the curve given the current state of world affairs, but it speaks to how we evaluate our work environment. We are always thinking from a consumer perspective, and we apply it to our own internal operations as well. Each of our employees is productive at different times of the day, and we want to give them space to thrive. On the marketing side, we constantly evaluate shopper habits to adapt our strategies to fit the ever-changing way consumers devour information and make purchase decisions. Often this takes the form of testing new digital media channels to see how we can better reach millennial shoppers and resonate with people authentically.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Greg Keating: A great deal of our client portfolio is in retail food & beverage products, so they’ve actually seen a spike in demand during COVID. Interestingly, this has created unexpected challenges on the supply side to meet the demand surge when plants can’t operate at 100% capacity safely. Some companies have elected to throttle ad spend to avoid pushing consumers in-store when there may be stock-outs on key SKUs resulting in a decreased marketing budget. Our agency is taking a long-term perspective on this issue, knowing that supply issues will eventually be resolved. Marketing will re-enter the fold as an imperative lever to maintain the demand experienced during the pandemic.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Greg Keating: Thankfully, we have been able to maintain our staffing during the pandemic. The biggest lesson for us has been on the financial planning side and recognizing the value of retaining business capital for a ‘rainy day’ like we are experiencing right now. Our fiscal forecasting and conservative spending have allowed us to keep cash on hand and weather the storm. Capitalism is the great equalizer in terms of business sustainability, and unfortunately, many firms are learning this lesson the hard way.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Hangar12 in the future?
Greg Keating: Meditation and prayer are personal methods of stress management for me. My faith plays a large role in my life and gives me a larger perspective when it comes to the fickle nature of business in general. I do my best to project confidence and that same long-term perspective to my team so they feel like they can thrive in uncertainty no matter what. I’m extremely bullish on our agency’s future outlook as people will be shopping for food under any circumstances. I feel that our team puts together incredibly strategic campaigns with strong creative concepts that resonate with target shoppers, and I don’t expect that to change anytime soon.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Greg Keating: We’ve found ourselves in RFPs with agencies like FCB Chicago and Havas, which I think speaks to the fact that we are a smaller agency that punches above our weight. We’ve represented several nine-figure revenue brands despite being a relatively lean operation, so we will continue to provide outsize results for our clients. The industry is becoming more and more about cost transparency and demonstrating ROI, which happen to be two areas of strength for us due to our technical solutions. The better we can demonstrate success throughout the entire consumer journey, the more growth we will continue to experience.
Your final thoughts
Greg Keating: At Hangar12, we help brands create omnichannel campaigns that deliver double-digit sales lift, plain & simple. We focus on creating brand consistency at every touchpoint in the consumer journey to lower customer acquisition costs and jumpstart growth.