This week’s Idea: Want to go bowling with Obama?

with Neil Godin

An email. From long time friend and MD member, Joyanna Anthony (“The Idea Lady”). “Thought you’d get a chuckle from this idea,” her email read. And I did. Well, sort of.  Here, first look at the picture, then I’ll tell you the story (if it isn’t already told)…

Did this cheap stunt keep a bowling alley out of bankruptcy?

Did this cheap stunt keep a bowling alley out of bankruptcy?

Need I say more? Okay, a little more. Joyanna said that after losing money for years the owner of this bowling alley was ready to close up and shut down – but decided to try just one more thing. And this is the “one more thing” he tried. Now, she said, his business is booming.

Okay. Why would a cheap stunt like this work so well? Well, because it’s clever. It hitchhikes on the image of a famous person – one who triggers both love and hate reactions among people. And it’s fun, even though it’s a twisted form of fun. It would also work because it targets a specific audience (Obama haters) and would cause a huge sensation (buzz) among people in that anti-Obama market segment. Perfect.

But, Joyanna, I have sad news for you. When I did my usual fact checking, I discovered a news item in the Tampa Bay (Florida) Times, saying that the Bowl-O-Bama story was a hoax. Quoting the deep-digging website,, the Times said that “someone” borrowed from a German ad campaign for tooth implants in making up the Obama bowling story. Look. Here’s a photo of the real bowling alley in Germany where teeth were the ten pins.

Obama-German bowling alley

Now. Why would I share this story with you, knowing it’s a hoax? Simple. Because it would have been absolutely brilliant. 

Your call to action:

If you’ve been with us for any amount of time here at Marketing Dangerously, you’ve heard us talk a lot about “hitchhike advertising” – which means watching out for someone or something that is getting a lot of attention, and hitching a ride on their coat tails. The most obvious examples are almost too obvious: Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day, Championship sports events, etc. Less obvious but equally powerful are celebrities and – of course – political personalities – particularly when they’ve done something egregious. So. If you can spare a moment (and if this idea strikes a blow for creativity in your mind), why not look for some thing or some one to hitchhike on? (Speaking of blow, a certain mayor comes to mind. I hear that a Toronto furniture store is planning a Rob Ford Lookalike Sale, with the winner winning a 50-inch flat screen. Hmm. What could you do?)

See you next week.




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