Archive for February, 2009


FirstBank in Colorado is running a series of ads at ski resorts promoting their mobile banking to young adults. Dangling over snow and equipment, the signs read “Bank in your ski mask without getting arrested”… with smaller text eluding to their mobile banking service.

Now, I’m not one to read the fine print on billboards, and knowing my innate sense of curiosity, I’d probably try to test their promise and walk into a branch wearing a ski mask. The result of course would be an uncomfortable encounter with police and that embarrassing moment where my lawyer tells me that A) the ad was a joke, and B) it was strictly for mobile banking.

This theoretical scenario got me thinking, however, that it would be really buzzworthy if FirstBank added some guerrilla marketing tactics to their campaign. For example, they could have stunts where hired actors wearing ski masks wander into bank branches and do transactions. Or maybe ski masked actors jump people in the street and hand them wallets filled with money and FirstBank mobile banking promo materials. Overall, I just think that this concept really lends itself to guerrilla techniques, and it’s a shame to see the campaign stop at traditional advertising… especially considering the target audience.


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It’s been a while since I’ve seen a new non-traditional marketing ploy posted on the web. Here’s one for 3M. They needed an intriguing way to promote their Scotch-Brite USP super absorbent sponge, so they hired Y&R Bangkok in Thailand and they came up with this.

They installed large sponges under the spigots of water fountains around the city so consumers could clearly see the super absorbent power of the sponges while they drank water. Apparently it worked and sales of the product increased due to the interest and buzz it created between consumers.

I think that this campaign proves a few points very well:

1. Even “boring” and/or “commoditized” products can be marketed in creative, interactive and memorable ways.
2. Interactive or experiential marketing is more memorable than passive forms of advertising.
3. Unusual or creative installation advertising reaches large audiences, spurs on-the-spot conversation, and spreads buzz well.

Banks and credit unions can easily use this kind of marketing to increase awareness about their brand, (think along the lines of Bank of America’s giant couches in their “Keep the Change” campaign). If that’s successful, they’ll then have to PROVE that they are worthy of having their new customer.

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Anyone who has been in a long term relationships can agree with one very basic fact: you tend to hear the same stories. A lot.

Each time you encounter a new set of people, your partner recounts a story you’ve heard tons of times about teaching a foreign exchange student curse words as a kid or seeing Tom Jones in an elevator. (Which by the way goes both ways, I’m sure he’s heard my stories a million times too).

So here is a story I’ve been hearing for 10 years.

About 12 years ago, my husband Bob was sitting in a bar in San Francisco. The dude sitting next to him was a rep for Alaskan Brewing Co. He was probably there checking on sales or orders, but he looked just like a regular patron. He asked Bob if he had ever tried Alaskan Beer and bought him 3 beers. They chatted and the guy told Bob about working for Alaskan, the kind of traveling he did, the kind of beer they made, and why he loved it.

All that over beer. When grilling my honey about the details of this encounter so I could write this post accurately, he specifically said that although they talked about the product the entire time, it never once felt like a sales pitch, otherwise he wouldn’t have listened.

But listen he did. And countless times since then when we’ve been at a bar with friends or selecting beer from the grocery aisle he will tell this story again, he will tell people what a good impression the beer rep made on him and talk about how good Alaskan beer is.

And this has been happening for 12 years. Can you imagine how many people have heard about Alaskan Beer because of this one encounter? And how much more of a brand impression those people got from a story from a friend than an ad in a magazine?

It’s word of mouth marketing at it’s most basic. Step 1: Be interesting (having your brand represented by an Alaskan who loves his job buying broke kids drinks in a bar – check!); and Step 2: Spread the buzz about your brand (telling a broke kid about your product in away that he turns around and tells tons of people afterwards-check!) I’d like to see a bazillion dollar Super Bowl commercial top that!

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As discussed in the PSST word of mouth marketing manifesto for credit unions, you (the credit union) need to be engaged in conversation with your customers. Figure out what they’re saying about you and start a dialogue! This seems daunting, but here’s an example from EA Sports.

A fan of EA Sports posted a youtube video of the “glitch” in Tiger Woods’ golf video game, showing what has been dubbed “the Jesus Shot.” The Tiger Woods character walks on water to hit a golf ball that has landed in the lake. This part of the video game created a lot of talk between gamers and viewers of this so-called glitch. EA Sports saw that people were talking about them and responded by creating a commercial. They went as far as using the screen name and video of the customer who posted the video in the beginning of the commercial. It’s an engaging, funny and shocking way to respond to what people were saying about their product.

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A comedian friend of mine from back when I used to live in Sacramento started a comedy tour called the Coexist Comedy Tour. It’s a group of comedians from different faith backgrounds (Muslim, Christian, Buddhist etc.) being hilarious and making fun of each other, but mostly focusing on how much they really have in common.

I went to go see them on their recent tour of Portland and they managed to pack over 400 butts into the seats of the Bagdad Theater.

Having access to the inside scoop, I asked my friend how they managed to get such a good turnout. This is what I found out.

The first thing they did for promotions was turn to traditional media. Newspapers, radios, local magazines. Unfortunately, their early attempts turned out no results. In a town where everyone and their best friend’s dog is an artist, getting your gig covered in the local rag is no small feat.

Having failed at traditional means of promotions, my friend turned to social media. The comedians on the tour hit up every social networking group they could find. Myspace, Facebook, Twitter etc.

Here is what they did that I find the most significant. They identified their talkers. They did internet research on the Portland scene and found tons of interfaith groups, tolerant religious organizations, groups into spirituality, politically active groups. Anyone they could think of that might share the vision of what their performance would entail. And guess what – these people like to blog! They hit up bloggers with tons of info and free tickets, and it really worked. People from these different groups came out in droves. One girl that went out for drinks with us after the show ran an interfaith group and she brought 20 people with her to the show. 20 people!

So with no help from traditional media (and with a lot of help from word of mouth), my friend was able to get over 400 people to come see his show. With very little effort and best of all, for free. When it comes to marketing, good old fashioned person-to-person communication can’t be beat!

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So I got a boxer pup named Shasta several months ago. I took her to Banfield Pet Hospital for her first check up and decided to purchase the Optimum Wellness Plan. Basically I pay $21.95 a month for one year to get all of Shasta’s necessary vaccinations, physical exams, tests, a vaccine warranty, health certificates, hysterectomy, no payment for extra vet visits, and additional discounts for any other services. It’s a really great deal. The best part is that when Shasta had her first “emergency” vet visit, the veterinary office called a few days later to make sure everything was going alright. I really appreciated the phone call, and felt like they really cared about me and her – even though I paid a discounted rate for the emergency visit. The best word of mouth a veterinarian can have is from one pet owner to another. And Banfield created a talker when they called me to follow up.

That’s valuable.

Lesson here is:

  • Know who your most influential talkers are
  • Target them with a value-adding service that’s worth talking about

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