Funky will still fail if you’re doing it wrong

Any marketing idea—no matter how funky, gimmicky, or just plain weird—will fail if it’s poorly executed.

Here in Austin, we’ve developed an international reputation for keeping things weird. This ethos can even include our marketing. Did you know about the local company that used to ride rollerblades while distributing gig posters for bands?

Another version of this type of low-cost, grab-their-attention kind of advertising actually happened to me, with one glaring exception.

Imagine that as you approach your parked car, you notice something sticking out of the driver’s side window. You get closer and recognize it as a $100 bill. Right in that moment some clever marketer has seized your attention because, as you remove the paper from your window, you realize it’s not really a C-note but a business card offering $5 off your next meal at a nearby restaurant.


But, in my case, I didn’t see money sticking out of my car window, like the picture on the left. Whoever was placing the cards didn’t understand the purpose or the importance of the $100 bill side of the card. Instead, I just saw a business card, like the picture on the right. I suspect that my initial reaction was no different from the next person’s—to throw it away without another thought.

The business-card-in-the-car-window trick sounds like it’s straight out of Jay Conrad Levinson’s no-budget, DIY classic Guerilla Marketing. And the gimmick of using a faux bill is so effective because there’s no way you’re going to ignore what appears to be free money.

The poor execution of the restaurant’s marketing plan—gimmicky or not—squandered an opportunity to capture the attention of a target market. Even worse, real marketing dollars were thrown away in the process.

A version of this post originally appeared on

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Well-designed Title Card

David Lamplugh is an Austin-based artist who uses an ingenious marketing tool to encourage walk-away prospects to follow-up with their contemplated purchase.

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This cleverly designed title card is information-rich:

  • name of piece the prospect showed interest in
  • name of the artist
  • two pricing options: a higher-priced original and a lower-priced giclee
  • work and home numbers
  • links to: his email account, his Facebook page, and an online store (run by a third-party) that sells his silkscreen prints
  • one brief mention and link to some coverage in a national magazine

If I was on the bubble about buying one of David’s pieces, this 3.5″ x 2.9″ card tells my everything I need to pull the trigger when I get back to my house and decide to do it.  It makes it really easy for me to buy.


How could you make it easier for your “I need to think about it” prospects to buy from you?

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A Tale of Two Fails


If there’s any truth to Oscar Wilde’s witticism that “experience is what we call our mistakes” then learning from the mistakes of others would seem to be a low-risk, high-return investment.

While not exhaustive postmortems, I’ve analyzed the failures of two high-profile arts organizations to see what useful lessons you might learn without having to endure for yourself a fiscal meltdown. (more…)

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Lessons Learned from 2012’s Most Pirated Show

Website Torrent Freak has named Game of Thrones as the most pirated show of 2012, with one unspecified episode netting nearly 4.3 million downloads.

Moral issues aside, what economic (dis)incentives might be in play?

…hundreds and thousands are downloading the show for free, although many would love to pay for it if HBO offered a standalone HBO GO subscription.

Game of Thrones (or GoT to those in the know) airs on HBO. If you subscribe to HBO, you can either watch the show when it airs, record it to watch later, or log into HBO GO and watch all episodes on demand. Simple, right?

Here’s the catch: you cannot access HBO GO without having a subscription to HBO. This is a classic example of pure bundling. And, of course, you can’t get an HBO subscription without a basic cable subscription.

So if you happen to love GoT, but don’t have–or don’t want–a cable subscription, you have no (legitimate) means to access the content even if you’re willing to pay for it. Ergo, piracy abounds.

I don’t have any insight on HBO’s cost structure or product marketing decisions, other than the current arrangement clearly must be sufficiently profitable in some internal calculus. I say this because HBO’s policy on pure bundling HBO GO has not changed, despite a grass-roots effort to make it more accessible.

Queen Cersei remains, for the moment, on the Iron Throne.

BOTTOM LINE: If you build it, make sure it’s easy for them to come and buy it.

‘Game of Thrones’ Most Pirated Show via Torrent Freak

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