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July 16, 2004 8:33 AM CDT

Thinking Outside the Box

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Good marketing follows the same principle as successful business ? you have to think outside the box. Sometimes the best marketing promotion is one that is fresh, even a little outrageous, and as a result, catches people's attention.

Today's statistics report that you have about six seconds to get noticed. If the first thing people see, hear or read doesn't intrigue them, it's too late to get your message across. They have already moved on to the next stimulus. Being unique always gets people's attention.

Just like any kind of marketing, you must know your target. When it comes to receiving merchandise, a study conducted by Business and Incentive Strategies reported that men prefer electrical gadgets while women want clothing. In travel promotions, women want vacations that are relaxing, with sightseeing and culture. Men opted for relaxation, sports, outdoor activity and sightseeing. Both sexes preferred cash. When you are developing your programs, it pays to keep these differences in mind.

It also pays to sample your audience. When waterbeds first came out, people said they were a fad. To overcome this resistance, one retailer offered a free 30-night sleeping trial: He'd deliver and install the beds, then make a home call 30 days later to see if his prospects wanted him to pick up the bed or just buy it. Ninety-three percent paid.

In Australia, artists created 200 fiberglass cows, painted and decorated them, and scattered them around the city. Each cow was available for sponsorship and businesses that made things such as ice cream, cars, paint and, obviously, dairy farmers took advantage. They used clever captions including "Udderly Beautiful" and "Cowputer." After 11 weeks, the cows were sold at auction and the money aided charity. This is a good example of unique public relations.

Why couldn't you build little animated homes strategically placed around your city and sponsored by masons, home improvement providers and interior decorators?

In 1930, Oscar Mayer created one of the most unique ad promotions in history by developing a character called "Little Oscar," then sending out real-life impersonators who traveled across the country in a microbus, called the Wienermobile, shaped like a giant hot dog in a bun. This program was also highly successful ? so much so that the Wiernermobile still travels around the country to this day.

What if you built a house, light enough to lift, that sat in the bed of your pickup truck and extolled the virtues of building with masonry? Don't laugh until you try it! How about a license plate frame that reads: Follow me to the finest house built. I saw a guy driving a truck just the other day whose license plate frame read, "Proud to be a contract mason." Of course he needed to add contact information to it, but you get the idea. Get in your prospect's face and stay there.

Remember Flippies? Flippies are custom flip books that can put your product into action with a simple "flip-of-a-thumb." Its animation starts with a piece of your picture, in this case maybe the structure of a home, and as the viewer flips through the miniature book, a beautiful, fully designed home is created right before their eyes. This is something you can take to trade shows that is easy for people to slip into a pocket and take home. This animation idea could also be used on a web site.

What if you hired a fine art photographer to take shots of your completed projects and then hung the photographs gallery-style, creating a presentation of both the masons' and artist's work?

Or, create puzzles out of your best work and use them as a promotion. When the person finishes the puzzle, your home, company and contact information is clearly revealed with some call to action such as: "Let us put the pieces of your new home together."

For one of my online companies, I created a business card that looked professional but carried only one line: my web site address. Whenever I go into a restaurant or other public places, I leave a few around for people to pick up. I'm banking on the "curiosity kills the cat" factor for this one to work.

Some of the most fun I've had in the marketing business is sitting in a room with other creative people and brainstorming ideas for promotions. You'd be amazed at what comes up, and often it's a good enough idea to develop another successful marketing promotion. Just make sure if you are brainstorming not to let any critics in, otherwise you kill the process.

Remember that no one understands your business, customers and prospects like you do, and that unique ideas bring the most attention and get you free public relations. And, we all know how valuable that can be.


About the Author

Cathy Taylor is a marketing consultant with over 20 years experience. She specializes in strategy and plan development, as well as management of communications and public relations programs in both the high-tech and small business sectors.

 

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