This weeks Idea: You’ve got to be visible – but “this” visible?

with Neil Godin 

An email. From Marketing Dangerously member Len McCormick. With tongue firmly in cheek he writes: “Here are some marketers who know all about getting the message out.  They obviously also don’t have any signage restrictions.  Perhaps we should lobby politicians for changes that will ensure all of our streets can be this vibrant?”

Hong Kong street scene. Should our streets be this colorful?

Hong Kong street scene. Should our streets be this colorful?

Len was responding to last week’s post where I talked about how “we have to be visible – no matter what it takes.”  Notice how Len has inserted an image of that car-topper sandwich board that illustrated the article? Nice work, Len.

When is enough too much? 

And, of course, Len brings up an interesting point. If everybody goes out and defies signage bylaws wouldn’t we risk anarchy – with wild, uncontrolled displays of oversize billboards, banners, balloons – and blazing neon lights – on every street and highway? Hey. It does happen elsewhere. But I want to offer a different thought (with all respect, Len): The chances of our civic leaders throwing out our civilized signage bylaws is roughly zero. So. Chances of wild hordes of signs appearing everywhere are low. So. Let’s stop worrying about visual pollution – and just make darn sure that “your business” is visible to your world.

Your call to action:

Here are three examples of guerrilla marketing – with signage – involving three of my turnaround clients. See if they trigger ideas that could help your company boost traffic and sales.

  • One of my turnaround clients was a high-end furniture store experiencing low-end traffic and sales. We hung up more than 100 “Huge Furniture Sale” garage sale type signs on the Vancouver streets surrounding the store. We did this only on weekends, when city hall staff aren’t around to tear them down. Result: the business was turned around in three weekends.
  • A package office business was going under. I wanted to place a 50-foot banner on their second floor balcony. “Can’t do that,” they said, “city bylaws won’t allow it.” So I called City Hall and asked how much time would likely pass between when we put a banner up and when we’d be ordered to take it down – on average. “Usually a few weeks or a month,” he replied. Good enough. That’s all it took to do the job.
  • A developer wasn’t allowed to put up signs on the highway. So we borrowed a moving van, placed it at the entry to the site, and placed huge banners on the side every weekend – with strings of small “lawn signs” leading to the site – again on weekends only, when highway crews aren’t usually working. Job done. Business turned around in no time.

Here’s my closing thought to consider. The biggest danger we face isn’t visual pollution – it’s our tendency to be overly frightened by Big Brother. As I say to my turnaround clients routinely: “We can’t let city hall ruin – I mean run – our business.” Instead, let’s have a little fun, and market a bit dangerously. What do you think Len?

See you next week (and would love to hear your comments).






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