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Newsletter #991: The “Little Trees” 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’ve all seen those tree-shaped air fresheners hanging from someone’s rear-view mirror. They’re called Little Trees, and apparently, you can find one in any repo car. But there’s more to these little cardboard trees than the strong scent of pine — they have a remarkable fan base too.

Here are three lessons from Little Trees:

1. Ask customers for their story
2. Let them be a super fan
3. Try lots of different stuff
4. Check it out: “Who Made Those Little Trees Air Fresheners?”

1. Ask customers for their story

Did you know that some people use the vanilla-scented Little Trees to keep away flies? Or that it’s called a forest when people collect all of their old fresheners instead of throwing them out? Little Trees gets stories like these all the time because they ask their customers for them. They collect feedback, photos, and stories from their fans and display them in a simple gallery on their site.

The lesson: You only earn amazing customer stories like these when you ask for them. How are you encouraging your customers to share their experiences?

2. Let them be a super fan

What if your customers loved your stuff so much they wanted to dress their baby up as your product? If you love Little Trees that much, they have something for you. They also have stuff like T-shirts, golf balls, backpacks, and bumper stickers — all for a car air freshener. Who knows how many people buy this stuff, but for the fans that do, that’s an immediate word of mouth starter.

The lesson: Stop worrying about if your company is cool or sexy enough to sell lots of swag — if an air freshener company can do it, you can too.

Learn more: Car-Freshner Store

3. Try lots of different stuff

Little Trees has had hundreds of different scents over the years, and now, if you want vanilla, you’ll have to choose between Vanilla Pride, Vanillaroma, or Very Vanilla. They even have some abstract ones like Victory Lane, Strength, Fresh Surge, and Night Sky. Why? Because you never know what will take off. Little Trees’ most popular scent isn’t their original Royal Pine, or any of the tried and true vanillas — it’s Black Ice. (What does Black Ice smell like? A crazy idea that worked.)

The lesson: When you try a lot of different things, you have more opportunities to learn what your customers love and what makes them talk about your stuff.

Learn more: Car-Freshner Fragrances

4. Check it out: “Who Made Those Little Trees Air Fresheners?”

Did you know that the Little Tree’s inventor was a German-Jewish chemist who escaped Nazi Germany during World War II? Or that the little pine trees used to be shaped like pin-up girls? You can learn more about the maker of these little car air fresheners and their history in this article from The New York Times.

Check it out: The New York Times

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