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Newsletter #983: The “It’s Not an Ad” 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.]

People don’t share advertising with their friends — but they will share something fun, exciting, and surprising. Are you doing that with your direct mail, posters, or TV commercials?

Here are three examples of how to make marketing more than just an ad:

1. It’s not an ad. It’s a cat toy.
2. It’s not an ad. It’s a photo op.
3. It’s not an ad. It’s fun.
4. Check it out: watchout4snakes

1. It’s not an ad. It’s a cat toy.

cat nip ad

Photo thanks to PSFK.

Direct mail is one of the oldest marketing tools in the book — and most of it gets ignored. But Bulk Cat Litter Warehouse got their mail noticed by printing it on catnip-scented paper. They knew that if people brought the mail into their house, cats would sniff out the ad themselves and do what every cat does with catnip: go nuts over it. By simply changing up the medium, the company turned their flyers into cat toys, not ads.

The lesson: Are you thinking of what your customers will do with your ads every step of the way?

Learn more: PSFK

2. It’s not an ad. It’s a photo op.

Flower Council emergency rose

Photo thanks to Adweek.

For Valentine’s Day, the Flower Council of Holland placed these red emergency boxes with a single rose in them all over Paris, saying “In case of love at first sight, break glass.” Under that was a small URL, “” No logo, no cheesy call-to-action, no sign of an ad. In fact, the link goes to a blog full of great content about… flowers.

The lesson: The Flower Council could have plastered the red boxes with stuff about tourism, flower shops, or some reminder about Valentine’s Day. Instead, they gave passersby a great photo op linked to something even more remarkable (and non-salesy) online. How are you drawing your customers in with remarkable content?

Learn more: Adweek

3. It’s not an ad. It’s fun.

LEGO didn’t need to boost sales with a movie. So when they partnered with writers to make The LEGO Movie, they did it for fun — not profit. Their customers would have seen right through a commercial disguised as a movie. Instead, they focused on quality writing, great voice actors, and a good story. Not everyone has the budget to make a multi-million-dollar blockbuster. But you do have the option to make something fun.

The lesson: Play around with your stuff, make some art, and share it with your customers. It doesn’t have to sell anything or show off any benefits — in fact, it shouldn’t.

Learn more: Contently

4. Check it out: watchout4snakes

Check it out!

Photo thanks to watchout4snakes.

This site will give you a completely random word, phrase, sentence, or paragraph each time you refresh. Sometimes the combinations it creates seem almost poetic.

Check it out: watchout4snakes

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