March 3, 2020

Beards and coronavirus: a lesson in fact checking.

If you’re a social media marketer, or your business engages in social media marketing, then last week’s beards-and-coronavirus misinformation fiasco should have been a huge wake-up call for you.

Here’s what happened.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re likely aware that a new coronavirus (COVID-19) has emerged, and it’s causing concern in pretty much all corners of the globe.  Regardless of whether a country has experienced any cases on its own turf, everyone is glued to the media reports to stay abreast of the latest status, advice, and warnings.

On the morning of Wednesday February 26 2020, someone (original culprit unknown) posted an infographic that the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) created in 2017 for workers who are required to use facepiece respirators in their jobs.  It was apparently (and very smartly) timed to align with “No Shave November,” to help those intending to grow beards in support of cancer awareness know what types of facial hair would prevent such respirators from working properly.  The respirators aren’t effective if the hermetic seal isn’t intact on the skin, so this safety message was not only smart but necessary.

The problem is… on Feb 26, 2020, this infographic was erroneously shared as NEW information from the CDC as a warning to the general public about COVID-19.  The dramatically incorrect message?  Men with beards won’t be protected from the new coronavirus unless they shave to one of the styles that work with everyday facemasks.

But wait… it gets worse.

The media, never shy about jumping on new (and especially absurd) angles to fuel a 24/7 news story, seized that nugget WITHOUT FACT CHECKING, and transformed it into headlines such as:

  • CDC Warns Men About Facial Hair Dangers as Coronavirus Spreads
  • CDC: Shave Your Beards to Prevent Coronavirus
  • These Beards May Make You More Likely to Catch Coronavirus

Within 24 hours, dozens of seemingly-credible news outlets shared this incorrect story as fact.  Here’s what the first five pages of a mobile search for “coronavirus beards” returned on the morning of Feb 27:

Now, forget for a moment that we’re talking about epidemics, media alarmism, and the shyster-like use of “click bait headlines” as a marketing weapon.

The lesson for social media marketers is this:  never EVER believe what you read – or worse, share it – unless you’ve checked the facts yourself.  In this case, a quick Google search would have told you that dozens of outlets were reporting on it… but that meant diddly squat, because they were ALL wrong.

So, you can’t rely on “quantity of stories” to verify facts, which is tempting.  Here’s what you CAN do:

  1. Check the original-named source. In this case, one hop onto the CDC website or their Twitter feed would have revealed that they made no such announcement.  But ANYTIME you see a media report that claims that “so-and-so says”… go straight to so-and-so’s website and social channels to find out if it’s true.
  2. Check the media sources best known for reputable fact-checking. Two known for highest standards in accuracy and credible sourcing are Associated Press and Reuters.  If they didn’t cover the story, it casts doubt on the veracity.  (Note:  Reuters didn’t cover the beard thing at all, and AP did just one story… on Feb 27 refuting the claim, with context and quotes sourced directly from the CDC.)
  3. Check the credibility of the media outlet you’re using. A helpful website, Media Bias/Fact Check, has a handy search tool that evaluates the bias and accuracy of media websites.  While it’s by no means infallible or the only source available for such assessment, it’s certainly useful as an indicator. A quick search on this site reveals things like how often a media source uses loaded language to sway emotion vs. factual reporting, how deeply/accurately it checks its facts, and how often it skews facts/opinion to favor a political bias (either left or right).

You may be thinking “well, I’m a tourism destination/hotel company/attraction/restaurant, and I’m not likely to be sharing coronavirus stories, so this sort of fact-checking thing doesn’t really apply to me.”

Not so.  Weird stuff, urban legends, outrageous claims and more are reported in the media all the time (broomstick challenge, anyone?)… and in your quest to keep your own social feeds interesting and relevant, you may pluck one out to spin with your own angle, and share it with the best of intentions.

So, the moral of the story is:  check your facts and keep your beards on.

Bonus (related) tip:  the tactic of using shock-and-scare to get attention isn’t just reserved for online.  Learn about the time Alamo tried to casually scare me into upgrading to a “safer” car.

February 19, 2020

Tiny design details can make big memories in hospitality.

The bedside table at the Kimpton Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh made me swoon with joy.

Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh bedside table outlet

It was such a pleasure to be spared the usual contortions of locating the closest power outlet to the bed: it was directly under the outlet icon.  The fact that it was done in such a clever way was just a bonus…and ensured that I’d remember it.

Design details like that might seem insignificant, but actually they wield tremendous power.  Guests on mental autopilot or simply focused on other things are instantly snapped into focus on YOU.  It cuts through their mental clutter and seduces them into being present in the moment, aware of their surroundings, and with a small zing of pleasant feeling toward you.  Without that design detail, they are perhaps allowed to be indifferent toward you…and in the competitive world of hospitality, that will never do.

I thought the groovy-looking fish on this cabinet in a guest cottage at Basin Harbor in Vermont was simply a decoration…

Closed fish design drawer at Basin Harbor

 

…until I noticed the tiny knob:

Open fish design drawer at Basin Harbor

 

And when I walked into a gas station restroom in upstate NY, this was the last thing I expected to see:

flowers in rest area bathroom

 

Did it make me smile after two hours of grueling traffic?  You bet it did.  Seems silly, but it really did.

You can unleash this design-detail power in literally any aspect of guest touch points.  You don’t have to do it EVERYWHERE at EVERY touch point… in fact, that would create sensory overload and then dilute the power of the surprise.  And indeed, it doesn’t have to be revolutionary or cost a ton of money…it just has to provide an unexpected “ah-ha” moment.

Look at these Do Not Disturb (DND) signs at The Quarterdeck Resort in Nova Scotia:

Do Not Disturb signs at Quarterdeck Resort

Magnetic DND signs solve soooooo many problems, especially for hotel rooms that open directly to the outdoors.  And anyone who has ever been annoyed by their DND sign falling off the doorknob or blowing away in the wind will instinctively – and involuntarily – think “wow that’s cool” the moment they see these.

But bear in mind that while clever design details are guaranteed to leave a positive impression on your guests, #DesignFails are guaranteed to do precisely the opposite.  Behold, this Montauk NY cottage resort, where our ONLY door to the outside was clearly at odds with the DND sign:

Design fail for Do Not Disturb sign

Luckily, I had a bandaid in my travel bag, so we were able to (literally) doctor the DND sign to the glass door.

And here’s a parting tip.  Design not your thing, or maybe you’re afraid of the cost?  You can achieve the same zing-of-joy with clever signs.

November 5, 2019

Here’s what “living the brand” really means.

There’s a store in Brooklyn called The Superhero Supply Co, which sells – among other things – a fine selection of capes, cans of antimatter (sizes: large and small), and sidekick utility belts (assorted colors).  It’s not a party/costume store, where you’d go to buy a signature Captain America shield or Wonder Woman golden lasso.  It’s where a REAL superhero would shop for his/her OWN gear.  Quite literally… a supply store for superheroes.

Until you get to the shelving on the left side of the back wall.

Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co hidden doorOne section of the fully-stocked shelves actually swings out (if you know the trick) as a secret door.  What’s behind the secret door?  A classroom, where kids can experience workshops to foster their creative writing and imaginative thinking skills.  There are evening and weekend sessions for kids aged 6 – 18, and they also offer after-school programs, host school field trips, and more.

Think about this:  the entire purpose of this business is to inspire kids to release and cultivate their imagination.  Would this be possible in an ordinary classroom?  Sure.  Is it 10,000 times more effective in a hidden classroom that’s the secret identity of a store that sells supplies to superheroes?  Duh.  Their imagination is sparked before that hidden door even finishes swinging open.

THAT is what “living the brand” really means.

It’s not about having a carefully-crafted mission statement and/or brand positioning written down on paper…it’s about how that mission and positioning come to life at all touchpoints of interaction with your audience.  It’s not saying you’re something.  It’s being that something.  As the ol’ saying goes… walking the walk, not just talking the talk.

Let this magical place inspire you to evaluate your OWN state of “living the brand.”

We see brand-disconnects all the time in the tourism industry, such as…

  • Hotels that say they’re gracious, yet nickel and dime guests with fees at every turn.
  • Destinations that say they’re artsy, yet feature boring, standard wayfinding tools onsite and online.
  • Ski resorts that say they’re edgy and epic, yet offer typical F&B options and vanilla interior design.
  • Attractions that say they’re fun, yet make ticket-purchasing and parking acutely painful.

Listen…I get it, it’s hard to live the brand.  Who wants to give up fees?  Or convince owners to invest in renovations?  Or fight town councils on signage regulations?  Or – WTF, Chris? – figure out a way to make parking fun?

But “living the brand” makes marketing’s job less expensive and more effective.  Your marketing dollars will have to work less hard to keep guests tethered, and – even better – transforms them into ambassadors, inspired to share your story with the world.

You may think it’s no big deal if you’re not living the brand at every single turn, but each off-brand touchpoint is sabotaging your trust with guests.  And an erosion of trust sabotages loyalty.  And a lack of loyalty ultimately means…buh-bye.

So, even if the step-by-step impact is intangible to measure and impossible to trace, living the brand is vital to your business goals.  Strap on your own cape and find a way.  The ROI is worth it.

For more information about the creative engine behind the Superhero Supply Co, click here.  Superheroes in Brooklyn, big foot hunters in Boston, secret agents in Chicago, time travelers in LA, and many more…the business concept is just pure magic.

 

October 23, 2019

Why I love Weed.

Last week, as I was leaving Weed Orchards & Winery in NY’s Hudson Valley after a day of apple picking, I uttered the words that every attraction, hotel, restaurant, and destination longs to hear:

We just HAVE to come back here again.

And I wasn’t alone.  A bunch of Redpointers and their families were with me, and they all felt the same way.  Future outings were planned before we even walked to the parking lot.

How did Weed accomplish that?  How did they seduce a bunch of been-there-done-that marketers into a loyal romance with just one visit?  With three smart moves:  energy, experience investment, and onsite marketing.

Energy:  Except for the peacefulness found among the sprawling orchards, that joint was JUMPING.  An emcee/DJ playing music in the front courtyard area and acting like a cross between a circus barker and welcoming committee.  A live band in the back patio and picnic area (near the outdoor bar, how convenient), creating a distinctly different entertainment space from the front courtyard area.  Wagon rides over here.  Wine tastings over there.  At every point, people directing you…guiding you…suggesting something for you to do/try/see.  Impression left on guest:  vibrancy, life, texture… “I would never get bored here.”

Experience Investment: The typical apple-picking attraction playbook is… orchards + farm store/bakery.  You wouldn’t think of spending an entire day there, nor would you think “I could come hang out here every weekend.”  Not so with Weed.  In a well-organized guest experience area, they offer four dining outlets (each serving completely different menu items, one exclusively devoted to cider donuts), two music/entertainment areas, several bar areas, a bakery, face painting, a playground, wagon rides, corn maze, petting zoo, a winery, produce for purchase, and a shocking array of indoor and outdoor seating areas.  And that’s not even counting the pick-your-own orchards, gardens, and pumpkin patches.  Impression left on guest: “I could come here every weekend and have a completely different experience…with my grandma, my neighbors, my besties, or my toddler.”

weed orchard mapOnsite Marketing:  The moment you arrive, you’re handed a map of the whole place (see pic), and then this happens in your brain:  Whoa.  What’s this?  I can pick peaches?  Nectarines?  Vegetables?  When?  Not now?  So, when?  I’ll come back.  Wait… is that a corn maze on the other side?  Where’s the winery?  Oh, there…not too far from the donuts.  And so on.  Supplementing that are the helpful signs around the place, and ohhhhhh… that emcee/barker.  She delivered the perfect blend of fun commentary (“there’s  no donut line right now!”), promo teasers (“don’t miss our pumpkin festival next weekend”), and smooth marketing lines (“tag us on social media @weedorchards”… “bring home a bottle of our crisp Seyval Blanc”… “it’s hot out!…try a wine slushie at the winery…um, not you, kids… adults only”).  Impression left on guest:  I need to come back…there’s so much to do here.

What’s my point?  THEY DON’T SKIMP AND THEY DON’T FUMBLE AT THE GUEST EXPERIENCE GOAL LINE.

I can just hear the objections that would typically occur in the executive planning and finance meetings of such a business:  Why do we need a band when we have a DJ?  Why have different foods at each outlet?  We can’t just hand out a plain old photocopied black-and-white map… it would have to be designed and printed and we don’t have the money for that.  And on…and on…and on.

Kudos to the team at Weed for – in my opinion – making all the right choices.

And if you think they spent too much money unnecessarily?  Well, ask yourself this:  how much are the words “we just HAVE to come back here again” worth to YOUR business?

August 14, 2019

An Instagram lesson from “The Dress.”

Recently, I learned about a dress available at fashion retailer Zara that has its own Instagram account.  At the time of this writing, The Dress had 21,000 followers.

Zara The Dress

The Dress (credit: Zara)

Not being a fashionista myself – whatever the opposite of a shopaholic is (shopaslothic?), I’m it – I figured that following The Dress on Instagram wouldn’t interest me… except as a marketer.  Because the thought of a dress having more followers than some of our clients is mind blowing, and just a teeny bit depressing.  I needed to know its secret.

Before I looked at the account, I tried to imagine what kind of content The Dress could offer to keep an audience engaged and growing (because when I first learned about it a month ago, there were only 13,000 followers).  Pics of The Dress in different locations?  Suggestions for jewelry, shoes, or other accessories that best complement The Dress?  Fan photos sent in wearing The Dress?  It’s true I’m no fashionista… but why on earth would anyone care enough about THE SAME DRESS to see pictures of it repeatedly and voluntarily?

So I looked.  And then I knew:  it’s not The Dress.  It’s The Voice.

OH, THAT VOICE.  The woman who created and manages the account, stylist Faye Oakenfull, sees the world through a clever lens…and that bit of brilliant, humorous cheek comes through with each post.  If she’s even half as good a stylist as she is a content creator, her fashion services should be in demand for eternity.  I scrolled through so many posts, and was smiling the entire time… and even though I’m not into fashion, and I was only looking at this account as a marketer doing research…in the end, I found myself clicking “follow.”

Because if this account brings me a shot of joy every time I see a post, then I’ll make room for it in my Instagram feed.

The Dress – and The Voice of The Dress – offers a valuable lesson for anyone managing an Instagram account in a lifestyle industry like travel, tourism, and hospitality:  you need to EARN your place in a person’s feed.  How?  Here are two useful suggestions:

Be entertaining:  That doesn’t necessarily mean funny… it means ENTERTAIN them.  Bring joy to their day.  Inspire them.  Make them think.  Surprise them.  And yes, make them laugh sometimes. Stop thinking about what you want (or need) to sell, and stop doing obligatory posts (with no thought, and at the last minute) just to check a box and keep to a posting schedule.

Be relevant:  Never ever forget that your audience is made up of individual people… and they are all doing different things and leading different lives at the time they see your post.  Why should they care that you’re having a happy hour special today when they live 1,000 miles away?  Talk to them as humans having a conversation (“This cocktail at today’s happy hour is so delicious, we won’t judge when you lick the glass after it’s gone”… pic of the cocktail, then swipe for pic of person hilariously actually licking the glass), not as a brand doing marketing (“Two for one happy hour specials on the patio today!”).  The former gives them a relevant sensory connection…the latter just pushes a transactional sale.

The Voice of The Dress does both – entertainment and relevance – beautifully.  And when my mother hears that I’m following a dress on Instagram – me!…who grew up as the tommiest-of-tomboys and tried to wrestle myself out of every dress she put me in – she’s going to laugh her head off.  And I wouldn’t be surprised if she buys me the damn thing for Christmas. (New idea for an Instagram account:  Mom Gets the Last Laugh).

Learn more about the story of The Dress here.

July 10, 2019

Masking tape: the unsung hero of authentic branding.

First, a warning:  this post might make you hungry.  I confess to involuntary drooling just while writing it.

Now, let’s talk about authentic branding.  And biscuits.  And masking tape.  And grandmothers.

Recently, as part of a winter tourism strategy and business development consulting assignment for Nova Scotia’s South Shore Tourism Cooperative, I had the pleasure of doing some business coaching for the Anchors Away Family Restaurant & Dairy Bar in Clyde River, NS.  Within this coaching relationship, we studied their business patterns, identified trends, assessed operational needs, uncovered opportunities, crafted marketing ideas, and surveyed market potential.  We also evaluated the visuals and the vibe – internal and external signage, interior design, menus, service – with a branding eye:  how strongly can customers connect to this restaurant and what does it mean to them?

All great stuff, and super helpful to charting their growth path.  But it wasn’t until the menu tasting that the magical branding lesson happened.

I sat there and tasted a bonanza of lovingly homemade goodies, including:  gravy so tasty I wanted to do shots of it, frozen cheesecake that literally melted in my mouth from extreme creaminess, and then…oh, those glorious biscuits.  Flaky.  Buttery.  Addictive.  The perfect balance between light and substantial.  One bite in, I felt like I had died and gone to biscuit heaven.

Me:  “Sweet lord. You could make a fortune selling these.  You make these here?”

Owner:  “We do.  My mother makes them.”

Me:  “YOUR MOTHER MAKES THEM?  Do you sell them by the pack for takeaway?”

Owner:  “We do.” <goes and gets a six-pack of biscuits to show me>  “We just started recently, and I know we need to get more professional-looking labels than masking tape if we’re going to keep selling them.”

Anchors Away Biscuits

Cue magical branding lesson.  Actually, a handwritten label with masking tape is PRECISELY the right label for a pack of drool-worthy biscuits that were lovingly baked in the back kitchen of a family diner by (essentially) someone’s grandmother.  It screams “homemade,” “just baked,” “no preservatives,” “small batch,” and “made with love.”  JUST LOOK AT THE FORK MARKS. I COULD HUG THE BAKER JUST FOR THOSE ALONE. So, the masking tape vibe fits perfectly into the authentic positioning – and unique selling proposition – of the restaurant. 

What’s the lesson?  “Branding” sounds like a fancy and formal concept, and to achieve it, many businesses think they need to standardize, formalize, and professionalize their touchpoints.  Slick, glossy brochures.  Traditionally staged photos.  Professionally printed collateral.  But branding – correction…successful branding – is really just the appropriate visual and emotional expression of an entity’s personality.  Branding means being who you are, not trying to be something that you’re not.  And effective branding makes a connection with the guests you most want to court… whether that means self-serve iPad menus or biscuit packs with masking tape labels.

So… nope nope nope:  Anchors Away, you absolutely do NOT need to get more professional-looking labels for your biscuits. If you did, it wouldn’t feel like “you,” and all the magic would be lost. You should go ahead and lean right the heck into the image fostered by ragged strips of tape and a trusty Sharpie fine point.  I honestly believe it even makes the biscuits taste better.  Draw a heart on the tape and I might even swoon.

And then – bonus – you don’t even have to spend money buying fancy labels. 

PS.  Anchors Away…please start a weekly Biscuit Delivery Service to the US.  You can have all my money.  Just please do it.

February 20, 2019

You can’t say no to bunnies.

Here’s the problem with the cards in hotel rooms that encourage guests to “save the environment” by reusing their towels and sheets each night:  consumer skepticism.

The bubble over our heads:  Really, hotel? You think we don’t see through this? You’re just saving laundry costs by making people feel guilty about selfishly destroying the planet. We all know that some marketing shyster came up with this angle to trick guests into doing it…and damn it, it burns us that you’re racking up the profit on the backs of our guilt.

The irony is…we really ARE conserving the planet by washing things fewer times.  But that’s a massive, fuzzy, intangible outcome, which relies on everyone around the world doing it too…because my ONE little towel is pretty impotent in that crusade all by itself. This makes it hard for folks to embrace, and so – of course – our skepticism kicks in. We might reuse the towels (it’s not a tough ask), but it doesn’t bring us the satisfied, warm glow those cards were meant to inspire.

Enter:  bunnies.

During my recent stay at Inn by the Sea in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, I quickly noticed the subtle presence of rabbit art around my room. Then I saw this and it all clicked:

The gist: We invite you to help us conserve. Savings from our linen program support the Inn’s “Rabitat,” a habitat restoration project with the Department of Conservation for Maine’s endangered New England Cottontail Bunnies, preservation of open space locally, and migration routes for butterflies.

Cue warm glow. I’M HELPING SAVE THE BUNNIES!  And not just ANY bunnies… THOSE BUNNIES. PROBABLY RIGHT OUTSIDE MY WINDOW. Hopping around IN THEIR “RABITAT.”  They even have an adorable name:  New England Cottontail Bunnies.

Dude, if you don’t choose to reuse your towel to save a New England Cottontail Bunny, you’re just going straight to hell.

Bravo, Inn by the Sea. You nailed this for several reasons:

  • It’s tangible, so guests can visualize and embrace the reason behind linen reuse.
  • It’s meaningful…both to them and to you. It gives you something to rally around together in a shared way, which deepens your connection and fosters good feeling.
  • It’s different and specific, so it stands out and makes an impression in the sea of vague “help us save the planet” white noise.
  • It doesn’t hide the fact that you’re saving money…rather, it shows what you’re doing with the rediscovered funds, which REALLY makes guests trust you and want to help.

Lastly…it’s authentic, genuine, and credible. It smacks down that natural human instinct we all (sadly) have for skepticism about marketing.

And, let’s call a spade a spade:  it’s fun and it makes people smile.  That…AND it saves the bunnies?  #winningatmarketing

September 19, 2018

Even accountants can have fun with marketing.

“I was so inspired by all the fun examples you shared, but I work for accountants and we could never do anything like that.”

So said the woman who came up to me after my recent speech about inspiration at the Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce annual meeting.  The speech highlighted the ways in which businesses can transform everyday customer interactions into inspirational, engaging encounters.  And as part of that, I shared dozens of examples from around the world…businesses using everything from tip jar signs to colorful portable toilets in order to make memories for customers.

My inspired-but-dejected accountant friend scooted away too quickly for me to show her a different point of view.  I mean…she hugged me, so she wasn’t THAT dejected.  But there was clearly a boundary in her mind:  other businesses like hotels and restaurants can have fun…accountants cannot.

Every scrap of my marketing DNA rebelled against that philosophy.  So in my mind on the drive home, I reviewed all the examples I shared in the speech, and this one leaped out… the hours of operation sign at Hot Dog Tommy’s in Cape May, NJ:

Hot Dog Tommy's Hours Sign

Wouldn’t it be marvelous for an accounting firm to have office hours from 8:57am to 5:02pm, with the tag line “we’re accountants…we’re precise?”

Their hours and that tag line could be shared in their email signatures, on their website, business cards, advertisements, and more.

And what does that get them?  A conversation starter.  A point of difference.  A personality.  A smile from a potential customer.

A way to be memorable.

And doesn’t EVERY business want to be memorable to its audiences?  Even you, accountants.  You want people to think of you over OTHER accountants.  So…without that tag line, your business card is ordinary.  With it?  You make an impression.

Any business can use nearly ANY touch point to make customers care about them.  No business has to be boring…that’s a choice you make, and you can simply choose to be interesting.  You just have to do it with care and thought to what makes sense for your brand and industry.  Accountants with hyper-precise hours?  YES.  Accountants with colorful portable toilets in the reception area?  Well…that will certainly make you memorable, but perhaps not in the way you want.

PS:  In 90 seconds, see how I prepared for this speech, and I’d be the biggest hypocrite in the world if this video were boring. Watch here.

 

August 7, 2018

A valuable sales lesson from a homeless gent.

fruits of relationship building - food left as a gift!

If you’ve ever been a client of Redpoint, you’ve heard our (constant, loving, unwavering) counsel on balancing “the hard sell” with “relationship building” in your marketing messages.

We get it.  When you have rooms/seats to fill, budgets to hit, expenses to pay…the urge to repeatedly reach for the hard sell is super strong.  But this is doing your marketing a huge disservice because you’re developing a one-sided relationship with your audiences:  you only (or too often) talk to them solely when you want them to buy something from you.  That’s quite selfish, and who likes to be in a relationship with someone selfish?  They’ll quickly tune you out.

But it requires a patient leap of faith for a brand to favor relationship-building messages over sales messages.  The conversion runway is longer and less trackable…so how do you know/prove the ROI is worth it?

Here’s the proof you need, delivered from an unlikely source:  a homeless gentleman who sits out on William Street in NYC every evening.

From around 4pm until after rush hour, he sits in the same spot and says nice things to folks passing by, such as:

  • “Have a lovely evening!” (all the time)
  • “Stay cool tonight!” (summer)
  • “Stay warm tonight!” (winter)
  • “Stay dry tonight!” (raining)
  • “Be careful of the ice just there!” (snowing)
  •  Etc.

He pets dogs, smiles at everyone, and waves at children.  He’s SUCH a nice man.  He never tells a down-on-my-luck story.  Never plays the guilt card.  Never shakes a cup full of coins.

And he never – EVER – asks for money.  Or food.  Or clothes.  Or anything.

But he gets them…in spades.

Every morning when I walk by his spot, there is a small collection of stuff left there by people overnight and in the morning prior to his arrival.  Most often it’s food, but sometimes it’s a hat, shoes, or clothing.

Think about this, folks.  People…busy, desensitized New Yorkers…think about him WHEN HE’S NOT EVEN THERE, and leave him things he needs but never requests.

THAT is master-class-level relationship building.  He brings them repeated, consistent joy and kindness and ultimately, they give it back…freely and thoughtfully and often.

Take a page from this guy’s book.  Find ways to be memorable to your audiences.  Engage them.  Treat them with affection.  Ensure that you matter to them.  Because when you matter to them, selling requires very little “ask” on your part.

May 29, 2018

This “Blind Date” concept wins at marketing.

This idea – Blind Date with a Book – is so brilliant, I just stood there admiring it for several minutes while my marketing brain lit up with joy.

At Book Culture on Columbus, a reader’s paradise on the Upper West Side of NYC, there’s a center table piled with books wrapped completely so you can’t see their titles.  A label on each one gives you clues to the book’s content, like so:

Blind Date with a Book

Trying not to look like a creepy stalker, I hovered around the table for a long while…just to observe the reactions of people who stumbled upon the table for the first time.

Here’s the big headline:  every single person HAD a reaction.  Some thought it was the coolest idea in the universe, some said they’d never buy a book sight unseen, some wanted to rip off the wrapping and see if they guessed correctly, some thought it was a unique gift for bookworms.

But…  Everyone.  Had.  A.  Reaction.

Do you know how hard that is to achieve?  Breaking through the cluttered awareness of busy shoppers, amidst a sea of tables and shelves and displays and gifts and noise?  Nearly impossible.

But Blind Date with a Book achieves it, because it’s rich with multi-faceted marketing power:

  • It’s the bricks-n-mortar answer to the online suggestion algorithms (“If you like this, you’ll ALSO like…”) that the Amazons and Spotifys of the world have trained us to crave.
  • The power of secrets and surprises…people can’t resist the mischief.
  • It addresses a business need with grace, whimsy, and a consumer-facing benefit:  the titles are all picked by staff because they’re worth a read, but for whatever reason don’t get as much purchasing love as they should.
  • It connects with people…engages them, and definitely makes them smile.
  • No question it gives shape to the store’s personality…anything unexpected and fun like this ignites a positive feeling for the brand.  Even if you’re not the type to purchase a wrapped book, you still think they’re cool for doing it.

What’s the moral here?  Stop reaching for the same old sales and marketing tools.  If Book Culture had wanted to push slow-moving titles, they could have done a sale or marked them as “Staff Picks” or whatever.  All usual tricks for bookstores, and all standing a 50/50 chance of getting people to care.

But wrap up a book in brown paper and call it a Blind Date?  Winner.  Hands down.