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VOL. 127 | NO. 46 | Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Lori Turner

Lori Turner-Wilson

Stunt Marketing Breaks Through Promotion Noise

By Lori Turner-Wilson

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With the explosion of social media, the sheer volume of marketing messaging vying for the attention of your customers is astounding. In fact, buying behaviors have fundamentally changed as a result.

With all of the inbound messaging delivered via social media, consumers have little time to search out companies in the purposeful way in which they used to. Instead, they stumble across brands, often by listening to their friends’ social media commentary regarding their experiences.

To break through the noise, you must create a brand experience worthy of buzz – a truly memorable experience that properly motivates your target market to share that encounter. What better way to take a customer by surprise, creating a lasting buzz-worthy memory, than through stunt marketing – a form of guerrilla marketing.

Stunt marketing isn’t new. In 1903, newspaper publisher Henri Desgrange launched a bicycle race as a stunt to promote his paper. He never imagined the Tour de France would be going strong more than 100 years later. The Miss America pageant was created in 1921 as a clever way to attract tourists to Atlantic City. And the Pillsbury Bake-off was intended to be a one-time stunt, back in 1949, but has now become an annual event.

The good news is stunt marketing often works. And when it works well, the residual buzz can last for years.

Experiencing significant market share erosion over the past several years and being overtaken by Google as the most trafficked website in the world, Yahoo knows its marketing should break through and engage consumers in unexpected ways. This year, the search firm began shipping giant, purple mailboxes around the country. Dubbed the “Purple People Greeter,” a charismatic Yahoo intern sits inside the box, positioned in a highly trafficked area, and talks to nearby pedestrians.

The mere fact that the mailbox talks grabs people’s attention, generating more than its fair share of startled screams, but that’s just the start. Consumers who play along and engage the box often get rewarded with Yahoo-branded packages like iPads or tickets to the big game.

The brand designed a special Facebook page to share the hobbies, interests and personal ambitions of the mailbox, including his celebrity doppelganger – none other than Barney, naturally. Visitors can also see road trip photos and check out where it’s visiting next.

Hats off to Yahoo for successfully integrating a stunt marketing campaign with its social media strategy and most importantly for thinking “outside the box,” so to speak.

The great news for small and mid-sized companies is guerrilla strategies like stunt marketing rely more heavily on your company’s ingenuity than financial investment, allowing smaller companies to compete with the big dogs.

As you work to stretch limited marketing resources, consider a stunt marketing campaign to stand out from the crowd of competitors, better engage prospective customers and demonstrate your brand’s unique personality.

Lori Turner-Wilson is an award-winning columnist and managing partner of RedRover Sales & Marketing, www.redrovercompany.com. You can follow RedRover on Twitter (@redrovercompany and @loriturner) and Facebook (facebook.com/redrovercompany).

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