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An Important Marketing Lesson from the Street ... Er, Street Corner Jim Huebner

For a number of years, there’s been a guy that stands on a street corner in Fort Collins, Colorado, promoting M&E Painting. They’re a local painting contractor serving homeowners in Northern Colorado.

Now, you might say, “Big deal. I see those people everywhere, promoting all sorts of businesses ... and I rarely pay attention to them.”

But make no mistake — Tim Farnsworth(that’s the M&E sign guy’s name) does it differently. You can’t help but notice him and the company he’s promoting.

With rap music pounding through his ear buds, Tim dances, moves, spins and points at drivers, humorously pleading for their attention. As a consistent recipient of those pleas, I'm telling you, you CAN'T not see Tim. I've tried. I've sat at that light looking at my phone, messing with the radio dial, checking the rear view mirror ... but I ALWAYS end up looking Tim's way to watch his next shenanigan.

Of course, his efforts then beg the question:

Does it work?

Does it build the brand? Does it smooth the pathway for increasing sales?

According to the company website, since its launch 10 years ago, the firm has done more than $18 million in painting business just in Northern Colorado. And if I had to guess, it's the top-of-the-mind-building antics Tim has brought to the street that has at least helped carry them to this level.

George Washington Carver once said:

“When you do the common things in life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world.”

While George probably didn’t have marketing in mind when he said it (peanuts more likely), there really is no concept more foundational to good marketing than first capturing the attention of your prospects. Sure, the frequency of communicating your message is important, and where your message goes — its “reach” — is critical. But it all starts with the big idea — the concept that’s really going to grab their eyeballs, ears or both, and cause them to take note for at least a few seconds.

Maybe it’s a startling or clever headline. It could just be a hilarious image or an unexpected twist in a commercial. Or maybe it takes sending something like a wooden log in the mail to grab your prospects‘ attention (yes, we did this for a client once). Either way, NEWS FLASH: Out-of-the-ordinary works in marketing, and shame on all of us for those times we've tried to get by with something that only ordinarily "meets the strategic messaging objective."

The next time you're planning a marketing effort ...

Ask yourself this:

Would the recipient of this promotional piece discuss this, forward this, or show it to a friend?

If the answer is “no,” it may be worth going back to the drawing board ... or as in M&E’s case, the street corner.

(Below, one of my favorite “uncommon” ads. You really can’t beat one elephant giving another elephant the Heimlich to grab some attention!)