Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The experiential marketing experience

Over Memorial Day I enjoyed a little R&R in Tampa. After a lazy drive up the coast, our entourage stopped in at The Pier, a popular tourist destination. After stopping for a round of neon colored slurpies, we wandered outside and wandered right into an experiential marketing experience.

Washed up on shore at The Pier were giant-sized plastic bottles. Nestled in piles of sand, each bottle displayed a roomful of furniture. Weaving in between the bottles were a half dozen smiling people clad in matching t-shirts and distributing small plastic bottles with messages inside. The rolled up piece of paper cleverly stated that your home was sending you a message: “Get new furniture.” Where? At the new Ikea store, of course.

I’ve never been to an Ikea store and I don’t think my home really wants new furniture (I just gave it new kitchen appliances), but I was ready to check out the Ikea store anyway. Any store that can figure out how to put furniture in giant plastic bottles is well worth visiting. And, that is exactly what Ikea’s experiential marketing team wants you to think.

Getting prospective customers to experience a company’s brand in a non-traditional environment is the goal of this unusual type of marketing called Experiential Marketing. Like Ikea, many companies are finding that Experiential Marketing can successfully draw customers to their brands by engaging them in an unexpected manner.

Charmin discovered the power of Experiential Marketing when it put restrooms in New York’s Times Square during the holiday season. The “Charmin Experience” provided New Yorkers with clean, public restrooms courtesy of their favorite bath tissue. The “Charmin Experience” was so popular, one couple chose the restrooms as their wedding spot. The bride wore white Charmin.

You don’t have to build bathrooms in Times Square to launch an Experiential Marketing campaign for your company. The key is to determine who you want to reach and develop a way to get that person to experience your product or service first-hand. If you sell shoes, put a runway outside your store and hire people to walk the catwalk in your shoes. If you sell mattresses, take them on the road. Bring a bed to a well-attended event and offer a rest-stop to weary attendees.

Experiential Marketing is all about getting your customers to interact with your brand outside of your normal sales channels. So you just have to get out there and get creative. If Charmin can figure out a way to get New Yorkers to experience toilet paper, think what you can do with your brand.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Is that a rubber chicken or are you just happy to see me?

Most companies have a nice basket of flowers in the middle of their conference room tables. At RWA, we have a basket of rubber chickens. Visitors find them irresistible. Some play with them. Some giggle. Some just stare.

The reactions change, but there’s always a reaction. And, that’s the whole reason behind having a basket of rubber chickens hanging around your conference room.

We can’t take all the credit for the rubber chickens. Most of it goes to Jon Spoelstra and a great book that he wrote called “Marketing Outrageously.”

In his book, Jon sends rubber chickens to NBA fans that had not renewed their season tickets. Guess what? A lot of them renewed. Few people can resist a rubber chicken.

The rubber chicken is just one example of how to grab the attention of a hard-to-reach prospect. If your letters, oversized postcards and brochures have not hit the mark, lumpy mail is a great way to get a foot – or a claw – in the door.

Food is also a welcome diversion during the workday. Pack up a bunch of fortune cookies with a note saying “Today could be your lucky day, but you’ll never know why unless you call me.” Or, send a case of $100,000 bars with a message of “Making money can be this sweet.” I once met a party planner who sent a watermelon to 10 large companies about their summer parties. She booked eight of them.

Over the years we have sent custom labeled steak sauce, prescription bottles, helium balloons, pinwheels, miniature spaceships, foam fingers and even a sports locker to potential customers. They don’t always lead to a sale, but they are always remembered. And who knows… two years down the road your prospect may pick up the phone and call that guy who sent him that Eiffel tower made out of paperclips that’s still sitting on his desk.

You could be that guy.

Monday, June 1, 2009

What's in your website?

Not so long ago we used to encounter a fair number of clients without websites. Yes, hard to believe, but these companies didn’t even have a registered domain name. Today, finding companies without a presence in cyberspace is rare. Even mom and pop shops have websites thanks to do-it-yourself software and tech savvy teenage relatives.

RWA applauds this movement toward more online marketing. Now, if we could just get this movement moving in the right direction.

As more and more companies get websites, fewer and fewer of them get what they should from their website company. Sadly, most companies don’t know that a large part of their website is missing. They’re just excited that they’re out there in the worldwide web and what a pretty site they have!

I confess that I too was once easily misled by websites. I was only attracted to the flashy ones, the ones with pretty moving pictures, cool graphics and lots of neat sound effects. I shunned the sites with too much text and boring, static pictures. Over the years I’ve discovered that websites are like dates – a lot of the attractive ones don’t have much substance once you get to know them.

So how do you know if your website is just another pretty face? Take a quick look under the hood with this easy tip. The only tool you need is an online connection. Go online and go to your website. At the menu bar at the top of your screen select View, then select View Source or just Source

What you see may look like a language out of Star Trek, but you’re actually looking at the coding for your website. A lot of it you won’t be able to decipher, but in plain English you can see some interesting things.

  • Page titles: These begin with TITLE followed by a description of the page. Page titles are good things.
  • Keywords: These should begin with “keywords” followed by a list of words or word groupings separated by commas. Keywords are also good things.
  • Text: The content or text on your website should be readable even in this strange Vulcan language. Text is a very good thing.

If your website is lacking any of these things, your website may need a makeover. The good news is that unlike many people, websites can change.