Ski season is upon us!
Doug Fish has been skiing Mount Hood for 50 years.
“I broke my leg skiing the red chair at Multorpor in 1964,” he remembers with a smile.
That chair is still there, and Fish still loves it. He has been a regular on the mountain since a childhood friend invited him up to the family cabin and gave him the opportunity to be the first person in his family to ski.
"I've always felt a connection with the mountains, and with Mount Hood in particular," he says.
He has climbed to the summit of Mount Hood and skied its terrain with family and friends through good snow years and bad. He met his wife Michelle DeCourcy at Mt. Hood Meadows in 1997.
His daughter Graeson was one of the top 10 high school racers in Oregon last season, and he is the parent rep of the Lake Oswego High School Ski Team.
He is also the founder and president of Fish Marketing, one of Portland’s fastest growing companies.
When Fish first launched his company in 2003 he called it Snowfish, and his plan was to focus on the snow sports industry. Since then he and his team have diversified into all sorts of new areas, as the economy boomed, crashed and finally began to recover.
But their biggest bread-winner is still their free-season-pass-with-your-new-Subaru campaign, which has proven so successful in Oregon that they are expanding it into Tahoe, Colorado, DC and beyond.
Fish grew up in Portland, went to Oregon State University and studied marketing and business administration for a while before dropping out to get into the music business.
He did security and later branched into marketing with Double Tee Concerts, promoting major rock and roll shows including the biggest concert series in Oregon history, a three-day Grateful Dead show at Autzen Stadium in Eugene.
From there he started his own advertising agency and ran it for seven years before it was bought by Gard & Gerber. Fish worked for Gerber for a while, then set off on his own again in 2003 to launch Snowfish Inc.
Snowfish nabbed a key gig as agency of record for Mount Bachelor and did extensive work for Salomon in the early days. Fish set up a Chevy-Bachelor partnership, launched a Race and Ace ski and golf competition in Bend, and worked the Subaru Oasis Demo Tour all over the U.S.
Fish also got involved with Tamarack Ski Resort on a real estate play. Tamarack was a year-round resort that began operating lifts in 2004 and almost immediately ran into difficulty as the real estate bubble burst a few years later. The resort shut down in 2009 amid bankruptcy and foreclosure. It has since reopened, but it is still in foreclosure, one of many recovering victims of the Great Recession.
"The recession was very bloody," says Fish. "We still have some scars."
Fish Marketing made it through by diversifying and modernizing. They are now into everything from political campaigns to packaged food, working with a wide variety of clients as a full-service agency.
"We help our clients with their brand, their digital marketing and their traditional advertising," says Fish. "Marketing has changed a lot in the last 10 years, and we believe that because there are so many channels in advertising, if you don’t have one entity keeping track of all your marketing, it is going to be very fragmented and ineffective. The tendency over the past 10 years has been to go with multiple agencies, but we are seeing a trend back to the traditional model of one agency handling everything."
The full-service model has served Fish and his colleagues particularly well in serving their biggest client, Subaru, which liked their "official vehicle of Mount Hood" campaign so much that it is in the process of replicating it in numerous markets throughout the US.
Fish's lead on the Subaru campaign is Nate Parr, vice president for client services. Like Fish, Parr grew up in Portland, enjoying Mount Hood. The first place he skied was Bachelor and the first place he snowboarded was Hood. He was been snowboarding for 22 years, and as you can see from this photo with his daughter Ruby, he is passing on his passion for the outdoors to the next generation as well.
When Fish and Parr first launched the partnership with Skibowl and Subaru, it was based on the Chevy-Bachelor deal in Bend, but Parr always felt it was inherently better, because so many skiers and snowboarders are deeply loyal to Subaru.
“It was a natural fit from the beginning, a way better fit than Chevy or anyone else," Parr says. "Just look at the lots on the mountain - it’s like a third Subarus.”
Fish and Parr started with a basic campaign that focused largely on TV ads associating new Subarus with good times in mountain snow. But over seven years they have incorporated a lot of new features. They built a mobile-responsive landing page at subarumthood.com, set up an e-mail program to reach customers, created a pass redemption portal with a unique interface for each dealer and each resort, and developed a digital marketing strategy using pay-per-click ads, re-marketing tactics, and keyword search ads. People googling "2015 Subaru Outback" will see Mt. Hood Subaru ads on top of their results page, and so will people googling "discount lift tickets" and "season pass."
The resulting campaign has been good for Timberline and Skibowl and their collaborative Fusion Pass, and it has boosted car sales at nine Subaru dealerships from Longview to Corvallis and Hillsboro to Gresham.
“It has grown so much from just running a bunch of TV and calling it a day," says Parr. "It has become this sophisticated marketing program. And the results have been phenomenal."
Two years ago, Parr put together a lively video showing how the campaign works for Subaru's national marketing conference, and it proved effective. "Zone marketing guys started knocking on our door left and right, saying, 'We saw what you guys are doing up in the Northwest. We want one of those.’”
Last year Parr brought the campaign to Lake Tahoe, Denver and Washington, DC, where the nearest resort is Wisp, in Maryland. Over two days in DC he met with 18 Subaru dealers, and 17 of them signed up.
The campaign made its debut in Colorado last winter, and by January Subaru was number one in the Denver market for the first time ever.
The Subaru account isn't the only campaign taking off for Fish Marketing. Now that the economy has rebounded, Fish and his team are in a strong position to keep growing. They work out of a sweet sixth-floor office in Portland's Central Eastside with super-high ceilings and views of Mount St. Helens and Mount Hood when the sky is clear. Their list of clients includes the State of Oregon, Stark’s Vacuums, Pacific Office Automation, Rivermark Credit Union, and many others.
“We’ll be at 24 employees by the end of January," says Fish. "This will be our fifth year in a row as one of the 100 fastest growing companies in Oregon. We have a strategy for doubling our revenue over the next couple of years, and as long there is a demand for what we do, we are going to keep growing.”
Here's a shot of Doug Fish enjoying the summit of Mount Hood, about 10 years ago: