Strange Ways People Promote Themselves

(And Why This Might Work for You)

If you’re not familiar with “Bryan Wilson, the Texas Law Hawk,” take 75 seconds out of your busy day and watch the video below. We’ll wait.

Now, after watching that video, you might naturally have a number of questions
(hopefully after drying your tears of laughter).

For example:

Is this guy serious?

Like, is he actually a real lawyer? For real?

Seriously, what did I just watch?

We’ll go ahead and spoil it for you. Yes, this guy is a real criminal defense lawyer practicing in Fort Worth, TX. He’s obviously not taking himself too seriously, but he’s serious about providing high quality legal services.

The Texas Law Hawk is probably one of our favorite examples of a person, company, or brand doing something weird, crazy, or strange to promote themselves.

But was he successful?

We don’t know him personally, but by all accounts, it seems like Mr. Wilson is doing okay. He’s been recognized as one of the top criminal defense attorneys in his county by Fort Worth Magazine, and seems to get good reviews from both his actual clients and his professional colleagues.

And, of course, he’s still making new ads in the same irreverent style. So clearly it seems to be working for him!

That being said, we’d also guess that the Texas Law Hawk shtick has turned some people off, too. There are probably plenty of people in Fort Worth who need legal representation but would rather hire a lawyer who doesn’t make a habit of busting through walls like the Kool Aid Man. A lawyer with such silly advertisements runs this risk of making potential clients think he won’t take their cases seriously, either.

Any time you’re promoting your brand, you’re taking a calculated risk. Contrary to the cliché, not all publicity is good publicity. Although it’s harder than ever to get noticed and stand out from the crowd, it’s also true that bad publicity can sometimes be even worse than no publicity.

There’s a loooooong list of brands whose out-of-the-box attempts at self-promotion backfired spectacularly.
To wit:

A movie theatre chain tried to promote the
(at the time) upcoming release of The Dark Knight by sending a cake from “The Joker” to a local news station.
The cake appeared to be wired like a bomb, but actually contained press passes to the film. Of course, the station called the bomb squad long before discovering the passes.

In 2006, Vespa—Italian scooter manufacturer—hired a bunch of attractive models to ride their Vespas around town and hand out simple cards with unmarked phone numbers on them. Those phone numbers, unfortunately, were for the local Vespa dealership. People were quite upset with the bait-and-switch. (We would never recommend dialing a random phone number handed to you by a stranger under any circumstance.)

Universal Studios thought it would be a good idea to cross-promote their film version of The Lorax—you know, the mascot of one of the most famous environmentalist and anti-consumerist fables in literature history—with a Mazda SUV
commercial tie-in.

If online poll results were legally-binding, there would be a British research vessel named “Boaty McBoatface.” Austin’s solid waste department would now be the “Fred Durst Society of the Humanities and the Arts.” A Canadian couple would have “Cthulhu All-Spark” for a baby daughter. Most of these outcomes are rejected for obvious reasons, though rapper Pitbull did go through with a poll-requested concert at a Kodiak Island Walmart. (There are some much more mean-spirited examples of this sort of thing happening, too, but we’re trying to keep it light here.)

A movie theatre chain tried to promote the
(at the time) upcoming release of The Dark Knight by sending a cake from “The Joker” to a local news station.
The cake appeared to be wired like a bomb, but actually contained press passes to the film.  Of course, the station called the bomb squad long before discovering the passes.

Universal Studios thought it would be a good idea to cross-promote their film version of The Lorax—you know, the mascot of one of the most famous environmentalists and anti-consumerist fables in literature history—with a Mazda SUV
commercial tie-in.

In 2006, Vespa—Italian scooter manufacturer—hired a bunch of attractive models to ride their Vespas around town and hand out simple cards with unmarked phone numbers on them. Those phone numbers, unfortunately, were for the local Vespa dealership. People were quite upset with the bait-and-switch. (We would never recommend dialing a random phone number handed to you by a stranger under any circumstance.)

If online poll results were legally-binding, there would be a British research vessel named “Boaty McBoatface.” Austin’s solid waste department would now be the “Fred Durst Society of the Humanities and the Arts.” A Canadian couple would have “Cthulhu All-Spark” for a baby daughter. Most of these outcomes are rejected for obvious reasons, though rapper Pitbull did go through with a poll-requested concert at a Kodiak Island Walmart. (There are some much more mean-spirited examples of this sort of thing happening, too, but we’re trying to keep it light here.)

Going All In

But on the other hand? A lot of whacky, strange, and out-of-the box marketing campaigns have been incredibly successful and profitable for their brands. Besides our buddy the Texas Law Hawk, we also love:

Blendtec’s Will It Blend campaign, in which CEO Tom Dickson proves the power of his line of blenders by using them to blend Apple Watches, glow sticks, rake handles, magnets, and dozens of other ridiculous items.

A classic rock radio station in Glasglow, Scotland promoted their station with a free air guitar giveaway. Racks of “air guitars” were placed around the city, with signs that encouraged passersby to “please take one.” Images of the empty racks promptly went viral.

In case there was any confusion, let’s clear this up – we are not opposed to creative, out-of-the-box approaches to promoting and marketing your business.

Yes, you have to use good judgment. That should be obvious.

With that in mind, the fact of the matter is this:

Going all-in on a “strange” idea or strategy can often be less “crazy” and more “crazy smart.”

In a world of overwhelming (and overwhelmingly bland) corporate advertising, brands that dare to do something genuinely unique and memorable are often rewarded. Plus, social media gives you the perfect set of tools to broadcast your message as widely (and cheaply) as possible.

So what can we learn from these examples? A few observations spring to mind.

Going All In

But on the other hand? A lot of whacky, strange, and out-of-the box marketing campaigns have been incredibly successful and profitable for their brands. Besides our buddy the Texas Law Hawk, we also love:

Blendtec’s Will It Blend campaign, in which CEO Tom Dickson proves the power of his line of blenders by using them to blend Apple Watches, glow sticks, rake handles, magnets, and dozens of other ridiculous items.

A classic rock radio station in Glasglow, Scotland promoted their station with a free air guitar giveaway. Racks of “air guitars” were placed around the city, with signs that encouraged passersby to “please take one.” Images of the empty racks promptly went viral.

In case there was any confusion, let’s clear this up – we are not opposed to creative, out-of-the-box approaches to promoting and marketing your business.

Yes, you have to use good judgment. That should be obvious.

With that in mind, the fact of the matter is this:

Going all-in on a “strange” idea or strategy can often be less “crazy” and more “crazy smart.”

In a world of overwhelming (and overwhelmingly bland) corporate advertising, brands that dare to do something genuinely unique and memorable are often rewarded. Plus, social media gives you the perfect set of tools to broadcast your message as widely (and cheaply) as possible.

So what can we learn from these examples? A few observations spring to mind.

KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE.

In any marketing campaign, you have to be really clear about who is in your target demographic. What do they like? What do they dislike, or distrust? What’s their sense of humor? What are their values?

Because the truth is, even if your zany promotional scheme opens a lot of doors, it could very well shut some, too. Some people will find it extremely endearing and funny. Others might find it stupid.

Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing! Making an extremely effective, hyper-specific appeal to your most profitable potential customers is almost certainly going to be better than trying to appeal to everyone at once (and being boring and unmemorable in the process).

Just be really clear-eyed about who you’re going after. It should never be your goal to turn people off from your brand, but at the same time your product or service probably isn’t for everyone either. Target your promotional efforts on the people most likely to need what you’re offering.

Audience

MAKE IT TRUE TO YOUR BRAND.

Just because “The Texas Law Hawk” works for Bryan Wilson doesn’t mean you should start calling yourself “The Michigan Landscaping Hawk” and run ads where you use dynamite to level a retaining wall. At least not necessarily!

No matter how “creative” your promotional message may be, it needs to feel (and be!) authentic to you, your company, your brand. It should “fit” with your values and how you want others to see you.

Using humor can go a long way, but if a high level of professionalism or seriousness is a core part of your brand message, you might not want to run an ad of your CEO popping wheelies on the interstate.

To customers who already know you, it’ll come off as fake and forced. And even new customers you do bring in may end up disappointed when their actual experience doesn’t gel with the expectations you created.

That’s not to say that an ad for a more “serious” brand has to be boring or can’t use humor. But again, you have to ask yourself “Is this me? Is it who I’d like to be?” If the answer to both of those questions is no, you might want to think more carefully.

branding

THINK IT THROUGH. THEN THINK IT THROUGH AGAIN.

As great as you think your promotional idea may be—as much as it made the whole board room crack up during the pitch session—really take the time to think through the implications.

History is full of “creative” promotions that ended up costing their companies a lot of money, a good chunk of their reputations, or both.

Just ask American Airlines, who sold “unlimited for life” airfare in the 80s and 90s for $250,000 per person and ended up losing millions per year on many who took them up on the offer. Or any number of ad campaigns that were meant to be “funny” but read as insensitive or tone deaf to the general public.

And remember, too, that while social media can be an extremely loud and powerful bullhorn for your successes, it can also bring swift and merciless “justice” to those who make an error in judgement.

We say this not to scare you away from a legitimately great idea. Just to make sure you carefully consider how your promotion might be perceived by other communities. You’d think this would be a given, but even today major companies keep shooting themselves in the foot on this one.

Use your judgment. Talk to a few other people (including people both inside and outside your target audiences) and see what they have to say. You want your promotion to be memorable for the right reasons, not the wrong ones.

think it through

DON’T BE (TOO) AFRAID OF FAILURE.

The truth is, sometimes you have to be willing to really put yourself out there if you want to get noticed. If your idea fits with your branding and target demographics and you’re confident it’s good-natured, then go for it!

As long as you haven’t done anything horribly offensive (and you won’t, because you’ve exercised your judgement!), the worst thing that can happen is that it doesn’t work. At which point, you can go back to the drawing board, evaluate what aspects of your promotion didn’t connect, and then try something better next time.

fear not

So those are some of the best and worst crazy promotions we’ve seen or heard about—and some of the key lessons they can teach us. What did we miss?

If you’re looking for creative, effective, and on-brand marketing strategies to promote your business, make CP Solutions your agency today. With web design, social media, content marketing, database marketing and more, we’ll help you build a strong foundation to promote your brand!

Give us a call today at (833) 622-0907 to connect.

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