Making Your Mark
Key elements for a lasting impression with your customers
This Week's focus: Unicycles, Foreigners
and Free Publicity
My time in the South Island earlier this year was eventful. Amidst
the myriad of accents, the flying unicycles, the dizzying altitudes
and small armadas of insects, I found very little in the way of
The month was January, the tour was SINZ
(South Island New Zealand), the people were insane. Not
just your regular insane either, this is insane to insane
people, the kind of people who've gone all the way through
insane and come out the other side, complete with unicycle,
annoying bell, and novelty straight jacket.
Naturally, they were celebrities. From my perch in the support van,
I attempted (and often failed) to make myself useful to Connie,
the superwoman who held everyone together, and I discovered something
wonderful. When people think you're crazy, they're a lot nicer.
I became a hit with everyone I met, in Wanaka one of the
riders received a hi five from a passing skaterboarder and
went head over heels in mid pedal, I later met the sister
of the flatmate of the offending skateboarder at a bar and
engaged in a twenty minute conversation while Ken, the tour
organizer, waited for the wine I had been sent to order.
The riders were immortalized in a million photos from foreign
cameras as tourists came to wonder whether this was a regular
occurrence in New Zealand.
Reporters came from everywhere to meet the group; interviews
were conducted at backpackers, on roadsides and at the occasional
café. The jokes kept repeating themselves, I can
tell you just about every unicycle joke in existence, and
Ken has a bulging scrapbook of press clippings containing
each and every one of those awful, awful one liners.
Let me reiterate my point to you though; these people are
crazy. They tackled the steepest street in the world on
unicycles, one of them punched a glacier (I still have the
water from the chunk of ice that fell off), they rode 160km
in one day through gale force winds, they even have their
own slang, their own community, hell, they've got their
These people didn't pay a cent for publicity, and everywhere
we went I was hearing about them before they arrived. People
love a nutter. They love a group of nutters even more. Ken
sent out a simple press release, and bang, every newspaper
in the South Island wants to meet this loony bunch.
So how can we harness this powerful tool of free publicity
and twist it to suit our nefarious purposes? Well…
Having something just that little bit strange about your
business is a great conversation starter, it's a way of
getting people laughing, and more importantly, getting them
talking. An ongoing gimmick, even better, one that's interactive,
is fantastic way to not only get attention, but to build
your business a long lasting market presence, it also gives
you a base from which to work your marketing, an ongoing
theme, adding a consistency to your image.
Organise something a little bit different, sponsor a teddy
bears picnic, hold a funny hat day, if you do something
a little wild, and then let people know, you'll attract
interest, it's a great of throwing your name in a positive
light. You can use it to reach out to your market and the
people around them and reach them in a way that builds trust,
because you took the first step without pushing them to
buy. And better yet, you did it will they were laughing.
One of the best ways to get the word out to traditional
publications is a press release, it doesn't have to be long,
the press release for the SINZ tour was less than half a
page, but it detailed when the riders would be in certain
locations, what they were doing and generally outlined how
funny and bizarre these people truly are. This was more
than enough to entice reporters out to meet us as we entered
and left towns, and the best part is, they did all the work.
Ken, the tour organizer, simply had to email half a page
to fifteen or so newspapers, and the word got round. People
were talking about us days before we got to them, and you
only had to mention a unicycle before people knew who you
were. And what did it cost? Not a thing.
So be a little funky, and let the people come to you.
Wealth, Success, and Unicycles,
- Bridget Hughes
Bridget Hughes is a member of the team at www.learning4ever.com,
a resource for business owners and entrepreneurs. She also
works as a marketing consultant and webdesigner, and has
a bad habit of getting into odd situations.