Early this month, the UK Daily Telegraph ran a strange story that went like this: “Domino’s Pizza has announced plans to conquer the final frontier by opening the first pizza restaurant on the moon”. As expected, the story became the most read story in the newspaper and got people talking. Some even smiled and wondered if its “free if not delivered in 30 minutes” rule would be applicable for this branch! Domino’s is known for its wacky marketing and this one got everybody talking. You need to get noticed if you want to stay on top of the consumer’s mind. There is too much of clutter and only the ones who dare to be different stand out and lead.
A few years back (1993), D.C. Comics released a comic book The Death of Superman. A character that had been a part of our lives for decades (Superman was born in 1938) would suddenly be no more – this created a ripple and the media covered it almost as seriously as if a head of state had passed away. As expected, the comic book sold out on the first day itself. Numerous other issues were released after this and eventually the company came out with another iconic issue, which was titled Return of the Superman. Just when D.C. Comics found the interest of the customers falling, it decided to get the excitement back into the brand by announcing the death of its most popular character! It worked.
BEAT BOREDOM TO BEAT COMPETITORS
You need to keep the excitement levels up to retain interest. Be it business or be it personal relationships; if things get stagnant, the relationship starts to falter. You may have a popular product, you may have the best quality product too, but if it gets boring, it is doomed.
Beating boredom was a challenge that these brands had to overcome. One was Ariel. A detergent is not a very interesting product category but Ariel did some interesting stuff, which got people talking about washing. At the Stockholm railway station, it set up a glass box which had clothes revolving on a stand. In front was a robot which squirted out chocolate, ketchup, jam etc. The game was, if you managed to aim well and stain a cloth, it would be washed then and there with Ariel and given to you for free (of course, stain free). The best part was that you could play this game on Facebook too! Washing suddenly became fun and got people talking about it.
So when the movie Green Lantern was about to be launched in Brazil last month, the moviemakers thought of an interesting idea. They put green LED lights on bicycle tyres and when the wheels started spinning, the lights made the logo of Green Lantern on the wheel, along with the release date of the movie. It caught the attention of the young viewers who found it cool, apart from making the cycles more visible to car drivers… which was an added bonus!
Apart from giving a good product, give people something to talk about, give them a good story and it will sell your product more. Marketing is not a one-time activity; rather, it’s a continuous process and many a time, doing something out of the ordinary just works like magic. Amazon.com has launched a new feature on Kindle (its e-reader). While reading a book, you can also send tweets to the author of the book and ask him questions. His answers will come in your e-mail. It just makes reading a bit more interactive and fun!
After all, you need to break the monotony and do different and interesting things to remain relevant. Throughout history, great entrepreneurs have not just worked on making a good product, but also on finding interesting and engaging ways to inform the public about them. Many of these stunts today have become historical events. When newspaper publisher Henri Desgrange started a bicycle race to promote his newspaper, he never in his wildest imagination thought that it would be the world’s most awaited bicycle race. Tour de France, started more than 100 years ago, today promotes a whole lot of brands and is one of the most loved events. Similarly, when Atlantic City wanted to attract tourists to its city, it thought of a novel idea of starting the Miss America Pageant in 1921. The event has snowballed into a big show watched by millions even today. Pillsbury launched its Pillsbury Bake-Off as a one time event never knowing that the idea would be such a hit that this would become its annual event. Even today, the event has not lost its popularity.
Many of these ideas are simple and not really expensive, but they work – much like some low-budget movies that work in spite of being made in a simple manner. This one gave Hollywood its famous star apart from five sequels. The movie in question is Rocky, inspired by Chuck Wepner’s fight against Ali, made on a small budget of $1000,000 the movie broke all expectations and records as it became a super hit and grossed $225,000,000!
SOUNDS CRAZY? IT WORKS!
In the 1990s, National Mutual (now a part of AXA Group) became very successful selling life insurance policies via mail. The company was doing very well and then one crazy young guy thought of offering a torch or a travel clock as an incentive. Everyone thought it was ridiculous; after all, people were taking a very important investment decision and these petty incentives would not change anything much. Nevertheless, the company went ahead with it. This crazy idea brought about a 37 percent increase in response rates!
If women can have a ‘walk-in’ closet in their homes, then why can’t boys have a ‘walk-in fridge’? Heineken Beer worked on this crazy idea and in 2009 released an online video where, in one part of the house, the girls jumped and shrieked at the sight of the hostess’ new walk-in closet, the guys in the other room freaked out at the sight of the ‘walk-in fridge’ lined with chilled Heineken! The crazy idea gave people something fresh and different to talk about and made it stand out vis-à-vis its competitors.
To promote dental hygiene, Colgate decided to make the sticks inside an ice cream bar in the shape of a tooth brush. As the child finished the ice cream, he saw the toothbrush shaped stick with a reminder, “Don’t forget”! Mothers loved it and the company got a huge PR boost.
They may sound crazy but some wacky ideas just hit the imagination of the customers – and they love it, making your brand the most talked about and remembered.
In today’s world, when it’s nearly impossible to decide rationally which product to buy solely on the basis of its attributes, it becomes absolutely necessary to ensure that your product is marketed differently and retains its freshness, is talked about and remembered.
CRAZY BUT DISASTROUS
Paramount Pictures came out with a novel way of promoting their movie Mission Impossible. They teamed up with the newspaper Los Angeles Times and selected some 4,500 newspaper boxes. Every time the customer opened his box, the theme song of the movie would start playing. The problem was that the device which played the music looked like an explosive with red wires sticking out. It terrified the unwitting customers. Some got scared and called the bomb squads, while one actually blew up a news rack and caused quite a ruckus before people realized what it was all about!
Every book that Oprah Winfrey used to talk about on her talk show became a bestseller. So Pontiac decided to use her popularity to market its cars. It teamed up with Oprah and one day all the audiences on her show got a free Pontiac. It did create a lot of buzz as everybody talked about Oprah’s generosity of giving a car to her audience; but not many remembered the brand; add to that the anger of the people who received the free gift when they were asked to pay a huge tax for it. The idea crashed. Some crazy ideas may actually be crazy. Implement them with caution.
It pays to think different. As Bob Thacker of the company OfficeMax says, “Don’t make ads. Make news.” This philosophy has ensured that he spends much lesser in advertising as compared to his competitors but always catches everybody’s attention, in spite of his business being most boring. An office supply store may not be interesting but its marketing can be. During Christmas, it created a website that allowed customers to turn themselves into elves. “Elf yourself” became a hit with people sending their animated ‘elf’ avatars to their family and friends. It got 17 million unique visitors in the first year (2007) and the idea still works!
Quoting from the very famous ad of Apple, which marked the return of Steve Jobs, “Here’s to the crazy ones. The rebels. The troublemakers. The ones who see things differently. While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people, who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
So go ahead and let go, fear not to do the crazy stuff, your crazy idea could change the world!
Do not worry if you are different. Say it with pride, “I am crazy and I love it”.