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Newsletter #1033: The “Ridiculous Ideas” Issue

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It’s important to test new things, try stuff out, and push the boundaries of what you can do with your marketing. You won’t always come out with a winner, but sometimes you just might think of something so ridiculous that it works.

Here are three examples of ridiculous stuff that turned out to be great ideas:

1. 200-dozen donuts
2. Carrying strangers
3. A book tank
4. Check it out: 3D Sculpting

1. 200-dozen donuts

Last year, Krispy Kreme UK delivered a box of 200-dozen donuts to a job resourcing company’s office in Wales. The 11×3-foot box required eight people to carry it and a big distribution truck to deliver it. They did it to announce Krispy Kreme’s new donut delivery service for weddings and corporate events — and for something as mundane as a new service, they earned a lot of word of mouth.

The lesson: Could they have just delivered 200 regular Krispy Kreme boxes? Probably. But delivering a ton of donuts isn’t newsworthy. Delivering a donut box that three people can fit into turned their new service into a news story.

Learn more: Slate

2. Carrying strangers

When 39 escalators in a Stockholm subway station were out of order, Reebok outfitted a troupe of athletes from a local crossfit gym in their gear and sent them to offer to physically carry commuters up the stairs. They also helped carry their bags, babies, and strollers — but the real spectacle was seeing strangers being slung over another stranger’s shoulder up a broken escalator.

The lesson: That was some quick thinking on Reebok’s part. They took a negative situation in a crowded place with a captive audience and turned it into an opportunity to do something lighthearted and fun.

Learn more: Adweek

3. A book tank

When you think about how to promote World Book Day, you probably think of the usual suspects — like librarians, teachers, and book stores — as the best promoters. But for World Book Day in Argentina, 7UP commissioned artist Raul Lemesoff to build one of his infamous “weapons of mass instruction,” a car converted into a mobile library shaped like a tank. Raul then drove the tank around urban areas and schools handing out the 900 books shelved on the outside of the car.

The lesson: A library shaped like a tank catches people off guard, causes a scene, and gets people to gather around. That reaches a new audience that a typical World Book Day promotion might not reach.

Learn more: Colossal

4. Check it out: 3D Sculpting

This web-based 3D sculpting app lets you manipulate an object using a bunch of crazy graphic design tools. We’re not exactly sure how to use them all, but it’s still fun to mess around with and create weird shapes.

Check it out: 3D Sculpting

Newsletter #1032: The “Lessons from Tattoos” Issue

[Welcome back to the Damn, I Wish I’d Thought of That! newsletter. This is text of the great issue all of our email subscribers just received. Sign yourself up using the handy form on the right.]

No, we’re not going to talk about those companies who give away free tattoos of their logo or the ones who pay people to get one. This is about businesses who have found unexpected ways tattoos can reach people — to help them recover, to detect cancer, and to inspire creativity.

Here are three companies doing remarkable things with tattoos:

1. For rehabilitation
2. For cancer awareness
3. For work benefits
4. Check it out: Vintage Tattoos

1. For rehabilitation

Ugly prison tattoos are a lingering reminder of bad decisions and guilt for some ex-convicts. Even worse, because of the way most of these DIY tattoos were inked, they’re almost impossible to remove with traditional methods. To help people transform these tattoos into something beautiful, Poland’s Pedagogium The College of Social Sciences teamed up with an ad agency, Isobar Poland, and tattoo artists to create Freedom Tattoos. They explain that by transforming the prison tattoos (not just hiding them), ex-convicts feel a sense of personal growth and feel more confident in their rehabilitation.

The lesson: It’s not easy to talk about the nuances of ex-prisoner rehabilitation. It’s much easier to talk about Freedom Tattoo’s mission to turn ugly prison ink into beautiful tattoos and start conversations about the bigger issue.

Learn more: Adweek

2. For cancer awareness/h3>
Tattoo artists are up close and personal with people’s skin all day. So when they see something that looks like it might be skin cancer, Sol de Janeiro, a sunscreen brand in Brazil, wanted to help them out. The company had dermatologists train 450 tattoo artists on how to spot the signs of skin cancer so they can boost awareness while giving their customers some ink. It gave tattoo artists a new way to show love to their clients, and it gave Sol de Janeiro a network of existing talkers to spread word of mouth.

The lesson: Find a group that serves your customers and think of practical ways you can help that group. What can you teach them to make them better at their jobs? What can you share with them to help them show love to your mutual customers?

Learn more: Jellyvision

3. For work benefits

Employees at Imagine, a design firm in Virginia, get an annual reimbursement of $150 from the company to go towards the cost of getting a tattoo. They do it to encourage their employees to be creative both at work and in their personal lives. But the tattoo reimbursement is just a small benefit that helps tell the story of their unique company culture. They also encourage employees to decorate their spaces with their own art and hold a golf tournament inside the office each year.

The lesson: Recruiting new employees, like recruiting customers, takes thinking beyond the usual benefits most companies offer. What unique things could you offer to help you stand out to people looking for a job?

Learn more: GasPedal’s Blog

4. Check it out: Vintage Tattoos

These antique photos of people with tattoos range from the glory days of Sailor-Jerry-style Americana to the days when getting ink made you a side-show attraction.

Check it out: Vintage Tattoos

Newsletter #1031: The “Something for Someone” Issue

[Welcome back to the Damn, I Wish I’d Thought of That! newsletter. This is text of the great issue all of our email subscribers just received. Sign yourself up using the handy form on the right.]

Making something for someone is the opposite of appealing to the masses. It’s about making something much more personal, meaningful, and relatable for a much smaller audience — and earning the attention of a much larger customer base in return.

Here are three examples of how companies create something for someone:

1. For their biggest fan
2. For scorned employees
3. For an underserved market
4. Check it out: Sad Desk Lunch

1. For their biggest fan

Dylan, an autistic teenager in Virginia, has had a huge passion for Kirby vacuums his whole life. So for his fourteenth birthday party, his mom contacted Kirby to ask if one of their salesmen could come by to do a demonstration for a flat fee since the family didn’t plan on buying a vacuum. Instead, Kirby sent a salesman for free who gave Dylan a vacuum set as a gift after the demonstration — and like most heartwarming stories, this one spread all over the internet.

The lesson: This kind of thing doesn’t “scale,” giving away vacuums isn’t a marketing plan, and Kirby isn’t going into the birthday entertainment business. This story is just a great example of how doing something amazing for one person can still have a big impact on how people see your business.

Learn more: TODAY.com

2. For scorned employees

Last year, Starbucks began banning their baristas from wearing rings with stones at work for safety reasons, and for a lot of people, that meant taking off their wedding ring. But when Yates, a jeweler in Modesto, California, heard about it, they offered to give away dress-code friendly wedding bands to Starbucks baristas who stopped by the store.

The lesson: While Yates’ promotion may only apply to a niche group of people, they know Starbucks employees talk to thousands of people every day. By turning them into fans, they’re reaching a much bigger audience than just the baristas affected by the ban.

Learn more: Yates Jewelers

3. For an underserved market

In Nigeria, white dolls used to dominate toy stores, leaving most girls with very few representations of their own image and culture in the toy aisle. And when one entrepreneur saw it had an effect on his own daughter’s self-confidence, he created Queens of Africa dolls. The dolls represent three major ethnic groups in Nigeria with a variety of facial features, hair textures, skin tones, and African clothing prints. And three years later, Queens of Africa dolls are outselling Barbie in Nigeria.

The lesson: When you see a void in the market, chances are, you aren’t the only one. By offering Nigerian girls dolls that represent their uniqueness, Queens of Africa obviously struck a nerve in the country that got parents’ attention.

Learn more: ELLE

4. Check it out: Sad Desk Lunch

Running late to work, no time to make lunch, and no time for a decent lunch break? We’ve all been there, and this is what it looks like.

Check it out: Sad Desk Lunch

Newsletter #1030: The “Lessons from Blue Bottle Coffee” Issue

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Blue Bottle Coffee isn’t your average coffee shop. They take pride in being coffee snobs who take extreme measures to make the perfect brew. And it paid off for them last year when they raised over $25 million in VC investment.

Here are three lessons from how Blue Bottle earns loyal customers and fans:

1. Teach people something
2. Create a unique experience
3. Invite people into your company’s intimate spaces
4. Check it out: WriterKata

1. Teach people something

The world of fancy coffee can be a daunting one. The most complicated brews can take the “hand of a surgeon” with the “improvisation of a musician,” according to Blue Bottle. But it’s OK, they’ll teach you how to do it. Their site has brewing lessons for everything from your standard French press to the intense Nel drip method. Even if you’ve never brewed coffee before, each lesson is easy to understand and makes the process look fun and creative, not scary.

The lesson: When you teach a customer how to do something, you give them an opportunity to look smart in front of someone else. You can bet that Blue Bottle’s customers can’t wait to show off their new chemex brewing skills and milk art.

Learn more: Blue Bottle Coffee Brewing Guides

2. Create a unique experience

For anyone who’s not a coffee snob, a visit to a Blue Bottle Cafe might be torture. Their painstaking processes take a lot of fancy equipment and a lot of time. But for coffee enthusiasts, it’s what makes their cafes a tourist destination. While they’re watching someone make their perfect cup of coffee from vintage machinery, they’re surrounded by other people who geek out over the same stuff as them. It’s about a lot more than just grabbing a cup of coffee.

The lesson: Even with Blue Bottle’s mail-in subscription service and a Starbucks on every corner, people will make pilgrimages to go to Blue Bottle’s cafes. That’s because when you create a remarkable experience, you create something bigger than just a product.

Learn more: Inc.

3. Invite people into your company’s intimate spaces

Usually, Blue Bottle’s cupping room (or tasting room) in Oakland is off-limits to the public — a strictly business, distraction-free zone with no music, no meetings, and barely any talking allowed. That way, Blue Bottle employees can give their coffee tasting some intense focus. But every once in a while, they open it up to the world and have a band and a big party for their “Cupping Room Sessions.” It’s a way to feature local musicians and give Blue Bottle’s fans a peek into one of their most sacred spaces.

The lesson: When you bring people behind the scenes, you’re helping them feel a stronger connection to your company. For Blue Bottle, since these parties are held in what they call their “sanctuary,” that’s especially true.

Learn more: Blue Bottle’s Blog

4. Check it out: WriterKata

At Blue Bottle, they make great coffee by perfecting methods that have been around forever and making small improvements each time. A kata, or a simple, repetitive exercise, is kind of like that. WriterKata uses that principle to help you improve your writing, one sentence at a time.

Check it out: WriterKata

Newsletter #1029: The “More than Just a Restaurant” Issue

[Welcome back to the Damn, I Wish I’d Thought of That! newsletter. This is text of the great issue all of our email subscribers just received. Sign yourself up using the handy form on the right.]

Restaurants have a lot of the same stuff you might have, like a strategic location, operating expenses, inventory, and busy and slow times. They’re also in a tough industry where you have to get creative to compete.

Here’s how three different restaurants are making the most of what they’ve got to bring more customers in:

1. A drop-off spot
2. A sidewalk sale
3. A place to play bridge
4. Check it out: Brunch City

1. A drop-off spot

Chances are, if you’re going on a road trip, you’re going to pass plenty of Waffle Houses on the way. And now, they’re using their convenient, right-off-the-highway locations to turn their diners into delivery drop-off spots. Waffle House is partnering with Roadie, the “Uber of package delivery,” so that travellers can pick up and drop off packages to make a little cash (and eat a couple waffles) on their road trips.

The lesson: We’re talking about Waffle House here — not some cool start up or hipster restaurant. Yet despite being the diner you usually see in front of a Motel 6, Waffle House is using their best asset to be a part of innovative, exciting stuff.

Learn more: The Verge

2. A sidewalk sale

Restaurants have a lot of overhead: plates, utensils, pots, pans, glassware, silverware. And this stuff doesn’t last forever either. As table cloths wear out or coffee mugs chip, restaurants have to replace them. But at Cotogna and Quince, two neighboring restaurants in San Francisco, they use this aging inventory as an opportunity. They set out gently used stuff for their annual “Smallwares Sidewalk Sale” and invite the community to shop, catch some brunch, and help them clean house.

The lesson: Now that’s how you take a problem and turn it into clever marketing. They’re saving a little money, bringing people into their restaurant, and getting rid of stuff they don’t want all at the same time.

Learn more: Restaurant Business

3. A place to play bridge

The dead zone between lunch and dinner is a slow time for most restaurants. But at Fazoli’s, an Italian food franchise, from 2:00-5:00 PM they let the elderly community know it’s officially bridge time. They invite bridge-loving seniors to come in during this off-time to gather, play bridge, and get free Italian lemon ice. For the customers, they get in a lot of social interaction and a chance to eat before the usual dinner crowd shows up.

The lesson: How can you use your off hours or slow times to serve a group in your community?

Learn more: The BridgeTable

4. Check it out: Brunch City

Can you recognize these tiny paper cityscapes perched on top of the foods they’re famous for?

Check it out: Brunch City

Newsletter #1028: The “Lessons from Employers” Issue

[Welcome back to the Damn, I Wish I’d Thought of That! newsletter. This is text of the great issue all of our email subscribers just received. Sign yourself up using the handy form on the right.] Like marketers, employers have to get creative to stand out from the competition, offer something worth talking about, and share the […]

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Newsletter #1027: The “Lessons from Empty Buildings” Issue

[Welcome back to the Damn, I Wish I’d Thought of That! newsletter. This is text of the great issue all of our email subscribers just received. Sign yourself up using the handy form on the right.] Every town has empty or abandoned buildings. Most of the time, they’re symbols of something that didn’t work — that a […]

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Newsletter #1026: The “Lessons from Virgin Hotels” Issue

[Welcome back to the Damn, I Wish I’d Thought of That! newsletter. This is text of the great issue all of our email subscribers just received. Sign yourself up using the handy form on the right.] From a record label to an airline, credit cards, phone services, and even healthcare, Virgin’s famous for their wide range of […]

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Newsletter #1025: The “Lessons from Ice Cream” Issue

[Welcome back to the Damn, I Wish I’d Thought of That! newsletter. This is text of the great issue all of our email subscribers just received. Sign yourself up using the handy form on the right.] Think you don’t have a lot in common with an ice cream company? Maybe. But if you have tight margins, lots […]

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