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Newsletter #1039: The “New Spin on Old Advertising” 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.]

While traditional advertising can be easy to ignore, every once in a while, marketers get it right and get our attention. But it’s not always because they spend more money, buy more ads, or build bigger campaigns.

Here are three old-school advertising platforms made more remarkable:

1. Bus stop ads that help out
2. Commercials that surprise and delight
3. Stickers that create photo ops
4. Check it out: The Pretentious-O-Meter

1. Bus stop ads that help out

You know that great feeling when something you need shows up right when you need it? For example, let’s say you’re waiting for the bus, and you realize your phone battery is about to die. Wouldn’t it make your day if there was a charging station sitting right next to you? That’s why VitaminWater installed USB ports inside their bus shelter billboards, so people can plug in their phones while they wait.

The lesson: Providing value to your audience is one of the best things you can do to make them happy. VitaminWater transformed a medium that usually says, “Look at me!” into something that says, “Here, let me help.”

Learn more: Adweek

2. Commercials that surprise and delight

When a group of guys had to give up the 1957 Land Rover they bought together in college, they were heartbroken. So when Land Rover saw the ad for their vintage Series 1 online, they bought it and restored it — complete with its original stickers. But before they surprised the guys with the keys, Land Rover put together a video with the restored SUV and turned it into a commercial. Each location in the commercial was a recreation of adventures the guys had taken in it before so that by the end, they were in on the surprise: Land Rover was giving them back their restored Series 1.

The lesson: Your customers have better stories about your brand than any marketing team can come up with on their own. Are you looking for ways to become a part of these stories?

Learn more: Brains on Fire

3. Stickers that create photo ops

You know the obvious mistakes you see out there in the world like a bike lane arrow headed straight into a curb, a sign for the “7st floor,” and stair railings that’ve been installed backwards? Snickers placed posters next to these blunders that say, “You make mistakes when you’re hungry.” It’s an inexpensive, guerilla-style extension of their major marketing campaign that you’d expect to see from a clever graffiti artist instead of a huge corporation.

The lesson: They didn’t have to install any new infrastructure or pay for ad space. They just took what was out in the world and added some of their humor (and marketing) to it.

Learn more: Ads of the World

4. Check it out: The Pretentious-O-Meter

Film critics and the average movie-goer don’t always agree on what makes a movie “good.” So the Pretentious-O-Meter calculates ratings from both sides to let you know where a movie sits on a spectrum of quality and mass-market likeability. For example, while films like Sideways get a 100% Pretentious rating, Beverly Hills Chihuahua gets 74% on the Mass Market side.

Check it out: The Pretentious-O-Meter

Newsletter #1038: The “Make Someone Smile” 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.]

Don’t get too caught up in complicated marketing. You don’t always need a coupon or a call to action. Sometimes the best marketing is the kind that’s so simple it catches people off guard with happiness.

Here are three simple things to make people smile:

1. Balloons
2. Friendly phone calls
3. Pretty dumpsters
4. Check it out: Eyes in Space

1. Balloons

Fleur, a florist shop in Chicago, puts a bucket full of bright balloons by the door of their shop with a handwritten sign that says: “Take a balloon.” That’s all. No logos, no catch. Just something to make people smile. Inside the store, it makes a pretty display, and outside the store, people are likely to ask where you got the balloon. That’s a simple, fun way to get a conversation started without a marketing message.

The lesson: A bucket full of balloons is a bucket full of word of mouth tools. It doesn’t have to be branded or a part of a larger campaign — in fact, the simpler you make it, the better.

2. Friendly phone calls

When one customer got an unexpected call from her wine club service, Naked Wines, she said she expected to hear something like her card needed to be updated or that she hadn’t ordered in a while. Instead, a cheerful rep had just called to thank her for her years of support and to make sure she was happy. That’s it. No sales pitch and no problems. Just a friendly call.

The lesson: When’s the last time you called or wrote to your customers just to say thanks? You don’t need any other excuse to talk to them, just some genuine gratitude and care.

3. Pretty dumpsters

To raise awareness for the amount of stuff we consume and waste, one artist, Christine Finley, began wallpapering dumpsters with beautiful patterns in cities like San Francisco, Berlin, Paris, Rome, and New York. The wallpaper makes a stark contrast of trash poking out from behind floral and damask prints. But here’s Finley’s point: “If we see dumpsters as works of art, we have raised consciousness.”

The lesson: That’s a lot different from your typical eco-conscious PSA. Finley makes the conversation more approachable and easier to talk about by using beauty instead of guilt to raise awareness for waste.

Learn more: Finley Studios

4. Check it out: Eyes in Space

Here’s something that will make you smile (or cringe, if you’re scared of heights): a 360-degree view from a weather balloon floating into space. There’s also a version for virtual-reality glasses if you dare.

Check it out: Eyes in Space

Newsletter #1037: The “Making Ideas Your Own” 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.]

We’re all about trying new things and getting outside of your comfort zone to see what works for you. But you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to get a good idea rolling. Chances are, you could learn from someone who’s already doing something brilliant.

Here are three companies that took great ideas from unlikely sources:

1. Soccer stadiums and breweries
2. Business blogs and viral videos
3. Goodwill and chic boutiques
4. Check it out: Hacker Typer

1. Soccer stadiums and breweries

When you go to a pro sports game, you can pretty much expect the same three beers on tap. After all, these brands pay a lot to be the “Official Beer Sponsor” of a professional team. But some smaller pro teams, like Sacramento’s Republic FC soccer team, have taken cues from local pubs to open up their beer menu to craft beers. After the game, they turn part of the stadium into a beer garden, which means people stick around longer and socialize with other fans. The team’s VP of Marketing says they got the idea from seeing that the people who come to their games have similar lifestyles to the people who frequent local breweries.

The lesson: Where do your customers go when they leave your store or check out from your online shop? What can you learn from those places to give them a better experience?

Learn more: The Sacramento Bee

2. Business blogs and viral videos

Blogger Gini Dietrich doesn’t write the stuff you usually see on viral content sites like BuzzFeed. Her posts on Spin Sucks http://spinsucks.com/ are usually about professional development. But once a week she shares a more light-hearted post called “Gin and Topics.” She picks a topic and shares five funny videos on that theme — the kind of stuff you would see on BuzzFeed. It has nothing to do with her usual content, but it shows a more personal, relatable side of the author. In fact, her readers look forward to it every week and even call her out if she misses one.

The lesson: We call this a word of mouth carrier. People share these posts, talk about them, and eventually, they discover her professional development content too. (And if you haven’t already noticed, this newsletter has been doing the same thing for years. Don’t forget to read the “Check it out” below!)

Learn more: Heidi Cohen’s Blog

3. Goodwill and chic boutiques

The typical thrift store or second-hand shop isn’t all that glamorous. But they do have one thing on their side when it comes to fashion: lots of rare and one-of-a-kind clothes. Goodwill capitalized on that concept by revamping some of their stores to look like upscale boutiques instead of the place you drop off your old futon. Their new Rare by Goodwill stores are smaller, and they collect some of the more trendy vintage or antique stuff their regular stores have to offer.

The lesson: Your business might have more in common with your upscale competitors than you think. What can you learn from them about attracting new customers?

Learn more: Small Business Trends

4. Check it out: Hacker Typer

Need a super cool shot of someone hacking into a computer for a film? Want to trick someone into thinking you’re a coding prodigy? Hacker Typer will spill out strings of text while you type gibberish on a screen that looks like every computer hacking scene in every movie. (Hint: Hit “Alt” three times and it will say “Access Granted.”)

Check it out: Hacker Type

Newsletter #1036: The “Throwback” 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.]

Everyone loves some good ol’ nostalgia. Just think of all the BuzzFeed articles about the 90s, Throwback Thursdays, and Timehops. All you have to do is glance at your social media feed to see that people are all about reminiscing, bringing back old traditions, and making history relevant again.

Here are three ways companies and organizations are doing the same to create unique marketing moments:

1. Holiday Inn’s “Circle of Life” wakeup call
2. Coke’s “Surge Movement”
3. The White House’s “Big Block of Cheese Day”
4. Check it out: MS-DOS Games for your browser

1. Holiday Inn’s “Circle of Life” wakeup call

Every Spring Break, the Holiday Inn in Panama City Beach, Florida, wakes up their guests by blasting The Lion King’s “Circle of Life” from their speakers at 11:00 AM. Most of the spring breakers come out of their rooms and sing along from the balconies. Guests even look forward to it. Holiday Inn could play anything, but instead, they chose something a lot of their 20-something spring breakers grew up with and love.

The lesson: We’re guessing that this is partly a fun tradition for the hotel, but also a great reminder to students that checkout time is coming up. Either way, Holiday Inn says hundreds of people call every year just to make sure they’re keeping up the tradition.

Learn more: People

2. Coke’s “Surge Movement”

A billboard outside of Coca-Cola’s headquarters had a plea from their fans: “Dear Coke. We couldn’t buy Surge, so we bought this billboard instead.” It also pointed to a Facebook group called the “Surge Movement,” a group of people calling for the return of their discontinued 90s citrus drink. So Coke brought it back — but they didn’t just put Surge back on the shelves, they sold it exclusively on Amazon (and immediately sold out). Even better, they made the people who asked for its return the heroes, featuring interviews with the “Surge Movement” starters on their corporate site.

The lesson: They’re not the first brand to bring something back by popular demand, but because Coke focused on the fans that made it happen and still kept that air of exclusivity, they made Surge’s comeback a blowout success.

Learn more: Vimeo

3. The White House’s “Big Block of Cheese Day”

When President Andrew Jackson was in the White House, he brought in a 1,400-pound block of cheese into the foyer for an open house. Anyone could carve out a piece, ask questions, and socialize with the White House staff. To bring back that same sense of opening their doors to the public — without actually opening the doors — President Obama’s White House staff hosted a virtual “Big Block of Cheese Day” to field questions on a bunch of social media channels.

The lesson: It’s OK to update a tradition to fit with the modern world. But by holding on to the spirit of the “Big Block of Cheese,” the White House brought a special sense of history and tradition to what’s basically just a Q&A session.

Learn more: The White House Blog

4. Check it out: MS-DOS Games for your browser

In the Internet Archive’s Software Collection, MS-DOS games like Oregon Trail, Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Super Street Fighter II, and tons more are at your fingertips in all of their pixelated glory.

Check it out: Archive.org

Newsletter #1035: The “On the Road” 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.]

There’s so much marketing potential in the quintessential road trip, in traveling, and in serving the people out on the road every day. But it’s about much more than flagging over those out-of-town visitors and people passing through with a bigger, flashier billboard.

Check out these three ideas for reaching people out on the open road:

1. Truckstop doctor
2. Traveling line dancers
3. Restaurant pit stops
4. Check it out: Google Feud

1. Truckstop doctor

One family doctor in rural Virginia posted up shop next to a truck stop to give care to truck drivers passing through town. Dr. Rob Marsh accepts walk-ins from truckers who don’t have the time to schedule an appointment or have a regular family doctor on record. And his convenient location makes it easy for truckers to come in and still make good time on their deliveries. In fact, they’re looking to open a full-service pharmacy in the gas station next door.

The lesson: What markets are underserved in your town? Don’t be afraid to break some of the usual conventions in your industry to reach them.

Learn more: NPR

2. Traveling line dancers

After Fort Worth’s Visitors Bureau discovered that many of the town’s tourists were coming from St. Louis, they sent line dancers from Fort Worth’s famous honky tonk, Billy Bob’s Texas, to the Taste of St. Louis event. The line dancers acted as ambassadors and showed St. Louis they knew how to have a good time in Fort Worth.

The lesson: Fort Worth did more than just send brochures or travel discounts. They sent an experience to St. Louis to give them a taste of what it’s like in Fort Worth.

Learn more: Ad Age

3. Restaurant pit stops

Recharging electric cars takes longer than your average fill-up at the gas station. So some restaurants like Denny’s and Applebee’s are taking advantage of the time electric car owners need to kill by placing charging stations in their parking lots. That way, when they pull off the highway to recharge, the obvious place to stop is the one that will also feed you while you wait.

The lesson: What one benefit can you offer to get your customers to choose you over your competition?

4. Check it out: Google Feud

This game uses Google’s autocomplete to create a Family-Feud-style game. Pick a category, and then enter what you think are the most popular suggestions from Google based on the word or phrase.

Check it out: Google Feud

Newsletter #1034: The “Two Birds, One Stone” 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.] When you look at your problems as opportunities, you might find that your issue can be someone else’s solution, your trash, […]

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Newsletter #1033: The “Ridiculous Ideas” 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.] It’s important to test new things, try stuff out, and push the boundaries of what you can do with your marketing. […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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