I received a marvelous real-life lesson in engaging an audience this past week and I received it right here in my own backyard. My city, Pierz, Minnesota has an annual festival every year called Oktoberfest. It is a nice little end-of-the-summer touchstone for residents, relatives and tourists, celebrated on the last weekend of August. (Yes. Oktoberfest comes in August in Minnesota).
In addition to a parade, music and an afternoon of fun activities (including a beer garden) on Sunday, there is a week of events leading up to the weekend, one of which is the Oktoberfest Button Hunt.
This insidious little contest is comprised of having one of the Oktoberfest Poobahs hiding a specially marked Oktobefest button somewhere in the City of Pierz. Clues are given to the whereabouts of said button each day throughout the week. The rules are simple; the specially marked button is hidden on public property, no climbing to reach it, not near the river or on the golf course. In other words, don’t be an idiot, be respectful of private property and stay safe.
I am usually very successful at not being drawn into this little drama. Each year, I pay scant attention to the clues issued daily and I give only a cursory look around my neighborhood. The button is usually found by Wednesday or Thursday of the week and life can get back to normal. However, this year was an exception.
This year, my 11 year old son really got involved in the search. I was drawn into the search by doing my best to interpret the clues and giving suggestions as to where the treasure could be found. (Button worth $500.00 in “Pierz Bucks”.) The week wore on and as no one was able to find the button, I began to get further involved. Thursday morning at 6:00 AM found me on the local website (www.mcrecord.com) publishing the fresh clue for the day. I was drawn in.
The local populace was drawn in also. I stopped on my Thursday morning jog at the local football field at 6:30 AM, convinced that I had figured out the hiding place. I was somewhat crestfallen to find three cars parked in the same spot, I had been beaten to the prize! There were 6 other hunters with the same interpretation of the clues. However, no luck. Friday morning’s clue brought no insights and by Friday night, no prize had been found. The stake were raised, as Saturday was the final day of the search and that morning’s clue would surely reveal the hiding spot.
Saturday morning at 5:55 AM, I was right there, at my computer screen, waiting for the fateful hint. By 6:00:15, I knew the final clue. It had practically drawn a map to where the button was hidden – it was less than a block away from my house! I hit the front door at a sprint and was looking in the designated location within a minute. Already, there was a person there before me, frantically searching. Within 15 minutes, there were over 50 people raking through the grass, combing through trash and climbing all over the area.
Let me pause to emphasize that fact. Within 15 minutes, there were 50 people searching through an alley at 6:15 AM on a Saturday morning! This in a city with a population of about 1000 people. 50 people searching in the dark, in 40 degree weather, totally energized. Anti-climatically, the button was found within 15 feet of where I was searching.
The marketing message in this example is profound.
This example demonstrated that the right contest can still cut through clutter, busy schedules and the inertia of modern life. The people reached by this little contest reached across all demographics. The lesson to be taken from this example is that the properly constructed promotion can energize and mobilize any audience. The recipe to create a memorable event for your company is; have some fun, be creative and inject some competition into the mix. Want some ideas on how to do that? Give me a call or click here.