A Different Type of Search Result

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.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Creativity, Promo Ideas

Here’s to Failure

This post is actually an article I wrote for Promotional Products Business in October 2007.

“Do or do not… there is no try.”

– Master Yoda (Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back)

I have heard many speakers and trainers over the years. Many of them will echo the sentiments of Master Yoda; you either accomplish something or you do not. A very simple concept and easily measured. It is a fairly simple matter to look at a task and tell whether it has been accomplished or not. However, in the accomplishment, little is known about what lead up to the achievement. In other words, how many times did someone have to “try” something until they got it right?

That has always been one of the reasons such stark statements such as Master Yoda’s have made me uncomfortable. How many people, having listened to such “motivational speakers”, were scared away from even attempting something great because the risk of failure was too great? How many Million Dollar Ideas have been left unfulfilled because the dreamer was afraid of being stuck on “try”?

Is there some great accomplishment or goal left undone in your life?  Do you have a buried, burning desire left unrequited in your psyche?  Well then, my friend read on and hopefully you’ll find the inspiration to add that goal back to your to-do list and give it the “old college try”.

Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” – Calvin Coolidge (30th US President)

You have, no doubt, heard the tales of Thomas Alva Edison developing the first practical incandescent light bulb. What you don’t hear about are the many inventors who came before him, the ones who “failed” in developing the proper technology, but blazed a path for Edison to follow. Edison was the technocrat who perfected it and unfortunately, got all the credit. But, I ask, where would Edison have started? Would he have had the imagination to even start? I say, let’s hear it for the dreamers who “tried” before him.

What I want to see is more failure. I want to encourage those intrepid spirits out there who have an idea, a dream, a goal; it is time for you to shake the doldrums and go for what you seek. Those of you who feel you can do something more; I say, you won’t know until you start. To those of you who have an unspoken truth in your life; speak truth to power. I want those of you who have the next incandescent bulb in your brain to put your ideas into action. You will never know until you try.

You may have heard the statistics of Babe Ruth, the best (my opinion) baseball player in the history of the game. For many years, he was the record holder for the most homeruns. Babe Ruth hit 714 homeruns in his career. He also struck out 1330 times. So, one can say that he failed almost twice as many times as he succeeded. However, what is not as often cited is the fact that he had a career batting average of .342. This means he failed 63.8% of the time he “tried”. Yet he is one of the most famous figures of the 20th Century because he “tried” mightily and was not afraid to fail.

So, here’s to failure, trying, struggle; long may it reign. Put it to work in your life. Persist and see what it does for your life, your income and your legacy.

“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. … his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt (26th US President)

Leave a comment

Filed under Facing Adversity

Moments well spent

Brian Tracy, master organizer and goal setter, advises us all about the importance of the “now” –  the moment we live in. He encourages us in every decision we make to always be mindful of our goals. One of his basic tenets of his program is that we must constantly order our activities so that we are always moving towards our goals. In other words, whatever we are doing at any particular moment in time, that activity should be bringing us closer to our goals.

Another important point he makes is; just because something is urgent does not mean it is important. We will always have to deal with life’s little emergencies – fires will always need to be put out. However, if you are spending too much time fighting fires, when do you have time to plant trees?

When are you going to read that book? When are you going to write that book? When are you going to take that class? When are you going to give that speech? Sing that song? Start that new business?

It is the activities we pursue in the present, the decisions we make every moment that create what we are and what we are to become. Moments well spent bring us closer to our long-term goals; closer to the important stuff. If you don’t have time during your day to actively pursue the important stuff, you may need to do some thinking about what is truly important. Good Luck!

Leave a comment

Filed under Goals

Play cards, catch a crook

Once again, promotional products demonstrate their problem solving power.

Take an ordinary deck of playing cards. Print the details of 52 unsolved crimes on the face of the cards. Distribute these decks of cards to all 515 police departments and sheriff offices within Minnesota, as well as 75 countywide jail and annex facilities. In addition, send over 10,000 decks to Minnesota state prison inmates. Wait for the tips to come in. And they are coming in.

The neat thing about this project is that it puts the information about these cold cases right into the faces of people who are most likely to be able to help catch a crook. Other crooks. This is a good example of targeting the proper market. Except in this example, the customer is not buying, they are selling… information.

This is a great example of a creative use of an everyday, ordinary product. One that we produce millions of every year. However, this is just one example of thousands of products that are used everyday carrying an important message. Maybe the next great idea will carry your message. We will never know until we try. How about we start today?

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Creativity, Promo Ideas

Linked In, Face Booked or Plugged Up?

The big question is no longer: “Should I be on Facebook, or My Space, or Linked In? (or one of the many other social networking sites “out there”)  That question has been answered in the affirmative – for anyone who wishes to remain relevant in the “New Economy” of the early 21st Century. Most “experts” suggest that one should chose 3 of these sites and concentrate your efforts on those three.

The new big question is: “What the heck should I do when I get there?”

I have been asked this question a number of times in the past 6 months. The best answer I have to date is: spend time and learn your way around.

Each of these sites has its own culture, applications and “niche” for your marketing plan. However, there is no “one size fits all” strategy for using these sites in your marketing. The only way to know how to use Linked In for your business is to play with it. Facebook has been used successfully by many to help grow their business, but it took them hours and hours to find what worked for them. These sites can be a great way to connect and get your message out to others; but you gotta “tweet” if you are going to Twitter.

Consider the time spent to be an investment in your education. At least you can attend class at your desk.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Temporary Cover – Lasting Effect

Summertime cook-outs, non-profit cook-offs & autumn tailgating are all great opportunities to advertise with an apron. After all, who wants to get sauce all over their party duds? No one! You can do them a big favor by providing the temporary cover they need to look the part of the cook, even if the results leave something to be desired.

Use an apron to tell your customers and prospects that you have them covered – literally.

Here is a bonus spin on this weird idea of the week. This fall, hundreds of grade school students are going to be painting, glueing and creating messes in art classes all over the area. Question: Would your local school appreciate some donated aprons to help keep their students clean? If your business has anything to do with children, art class aprons provide a wonderful opportunity to build brand awareness in an environment that builds credibility and good will.

Leave a comment

Filed under Promo Ideas

Stretching the Truth

Charlie Girsch has a pretty good gig. He has created a career for himself in the toy invention business, which means he gets to spend his days thinking of new ways to play. Fun work if you can get it, but damned difficult to be successful in it.

Charlie is one of the best and he shares many of his secrets in a book he wrote with his wife(Maria Girsch, Ph.D)  “Fanning the Creative Spirit”. This book is full of practical “creative”stretch” exercises and activities that help one increase their creativity and innovation quotient. I highly recommend you purchase a copy of his book and put it on your desk for when you need a burst of inspiration.

To give you some idea of the exercises you can use to “stretch” you creativity, here is something you can try over the long weekend coming up – Try, for one day, to do nothing but truthfully complement or say something nice about everyone you talk with or meet.

Believe me, when it comes to picnics or time spent with the relatives, this exercise will require you to think quickly and creatively. Good Luck.

Leave a comment

Filed under Creativity