All posts tagged Marketing

Business should busk.

What marketers can learn from street performers.

I’ve always thought that buskers were “Carnies with Talent”, working their way around the world entertaining suburban dads decked out in a Tilley hat and a willingness to be embarrassed in front of a crowd of assembled strangers. Now, given your average street performer makes less than minimal wage over a 40 hour work week, it may not seem like there’s much to learn from them. But there is.

Busking is the epitome of the cold call.

No brand awareness. No liquidation sale. No inbound marketing techniques. A busker has the unenviable task of selling their product in an environment filled with the direct  competition and booths with food and face painting that distract their customers even more. In one 20 minute set, they have to build an audience, deliver their product and then ask for voluntary payment. Is there a more pure business transaction in the world? I doubt it. Here’s what we can learn.

1. They build a unique product.
When you’re competing against other performers, you can’t simply do what the other guy is doing. Even if you’re juggling stuff, you have to look unique, act unique, sound unique and in some cases, smell unique. And when you hit the stage, you better have invested the time to perfect your product. Who’s going to invest the time watching someone perfect their bit when there are so many other perfect options available?

2. They use the audience to build an audience.
Stepping into an empty space, a busker has to immediately create interest in his or her product without the benefit of a social media agency to help them do it.

To build an audience, they simply start with one person. They’ll politely ask an innocent bystander to get involved. “Can you hold this? Can you stand there? Can you put your hand up?” Volunteers aren’t given the 3 year strategic plan and asked to share with their friends – they’re just asked to do something simple. They’re involvement intrigues others to at least stand around and wait to see what’s going to happen. Even the most skeptical will wonder what we’re missing when a crowd starts to form.

3. VIP access for early adopters.
Why hang around waiting for something to happen when there are so many other options? Well, anyone who has been to a busker festival knows that the early adopters get front row seating. They get to see more and hear more and if they’re lucky, there’s a chance that they’ll actually get to star in the show. There should be a reward for those who stuck with us even when there wasn’t any show to speak of. I hope I never forget that.

4. Make ‘em feel special.
A positive attitude creates a positive experience. Every time someone does something, says something, or volunteers to join the show, the professional busker initiates a response with the age-old, “Let’s give Phil a really big hand, folks…” And it doesn’t just make the volunteer feel ridiculously special. It creates intrigue for customers who may be bored at another show. We consumers don’t want to think we’re missing out on something. With this strategy, the bigger a crowd gets, the bigger the crowd will get.

5. They use humour.
I don’t think puns or sexual innuendo are funny. Apparently, I’m in the vast minority. While crowds bellowed at lame one-liners, I was heard muttering, “They think this shit is funny?” Oh well. Regardless of the specific tone of the humour, I think we can all agree that humour is critical when building relationships.

6. They ask to get paid. 

Can you imagine if agencies had to complete a campaign before asking, “How much do you think that was worth?” Yikes. Part of me thinks agencies would actually make more. Well, that’s what these folks do every day of the week. And those who are good at it make more. When they make more, they can perform more.

The approach is usually honest: “I do this as my job and the festival doesn’t pay me.”
It’s rational: “Can you see a show this good for $10 for your entire family?”
It’s promotional: “If you give $20, you get a free DVD.”
It’s humourous: “If you give $10, you’ll go home happy. If you give $100, you’ll go home with me.”

I always feel bad asking for dough. I think I may change my approach.

It’s not like I’m asking brand managers to get a guitar case, work on stilts or juggle their product while it’s in flames. But there’s a lot we can learn from our nomadic creative colleagues. We all want to build community, give a good show and create applause. But unless people put money in our cap, we won’t survive.

If you want to check out more photos I took at Buskerfest, click here. 

Warning!!! These ads will shock you.

Challenged with a cluttered marketplace, bad marketers (like the ones behind this ad for Fluid Hair Salon in Edmonton), shamefully take a marketing short cut by just shocking consumers to achieve breakthrough.

Am I offended? Absolutely.
But I’m offended as a marketer.

First of all, I totally can appreciate that this ad offends some people. Victims of domestic abuse don’t need to face a depiction of their horror blatantly used to help sell a $40 perm. Still, I don’t think it gets us beyond a “Yes it is / No it isn’t” debate. In the grand scheme of things, we have bigger fish to fry but if you want to complain or boycott or write a letter, go ahead.

Does this ad stand out? Yup. You bet.
You know what else would get them noticed? Repeatedly kicking a puppy in front of the salon. If it’s all about awareness then why not go all the way?

The point is, it’s NOT about standing out.

It should be about building a relevant, genuine, compelling and valuable brand and THEN communicating it in a unique way. Their campaign, “Look good in all you do” lacks real consumer insight and fails to communicate a clear product benefit or differentiation. It’s just lazy marketing in the same way that Dane Cook is lazy stand up comedy. Sure, it gets your attention but after the shock, you’re left realizing there’s not much substance behind it.

Funny enough, they do have some interesting things to say beyond domestic abuse. Apparently, they recycle hair for the production of oil spill mats. That’s kinda cool. And not something I’ve ever heard of before. Why not lead with that?

Benetton it’s not.
Remember this campaign?

Benetton created controversy with their advertising from the early 90’s. The difference between this stellar work and Fluid’s campaign is simple: Benetton stood for something positive. They believed in uniting colours. So while a photo of a white man kissing a black woman may have shocked some, it shouldn’t have. Their progressive social stance was clear and those who disagreed were able to make an appropriate and informed consumer choice.

I’m still not sure what Fluid believes in. Feminine strength in the face of adversity? Superficial composure in the face of adversity? Edgy communications for an edgy product?
After reading all the reports, blog posts, responses and media articles relating to this issue, here’s my final thought on this subject:  I don’t think Fluid owner Sarah Cameron or her “creative consultant” Tiffany Jackson are horrible people.

They’re just horrible marketers.

Even in managing the response, it’s clear that they’re in over their heads. Sarah needs to turn to a real professional in Edmonton (I can provide some names) before this gets even worse.
Remember: A blunder like this can taint you but your response to it will define you.

The campaign states that you should “Look good in all you do”. It’s time for Fluid to follow their own advice.