Marketing gimmicks give marketing a bad name. The worst form of marketing gimmick is falsely promoting a cause to profit from it. These days, this tactic usually takes the form of “green marketing.” Take, for instance, this “Save the Earth Gum:”
“Buy this gum and save trees.” Yeah, right. Chewing gum and trees have so little to do with one another that this marketing gimmick is obviously ridiculous. (Also, the brand neglects to mention that trees are required to make their cardboard display box, along with the resources required to produce the plastic tubes and labels.)
Even supposed environmental organizations aren’t free from this marketing hypocrisy. At a local event, the Hamilton County Recycling representatives were trying to promote recycling at restaurants and bars… by handing out copious amounts of full-color, double-sided, aqueous-coated business cards. Not only did they avoid printing on recycled paper, but these waterproof cards would take years to decompose in a landfill.
In an attempt to maintain an appealing landscape, the maintenance crew for the EPA office down the street sprayed noxious chemicals through my open car windows. Along with the lungful of chemicals, they were spreading the message that green grass is more important than their mission.
If your business has a core philosophy and set of values, your marketing plan should highlight them and educate your customers. But companies using a thin veneer of popular “values” to hock products won’t succeed at it for very long. Fads are fickle, and customers are growing more skeptical every day.
Word-of-mouth marketing, the kind of marketing where your customers spread the word for you, is an exceptionally effective marketing strategy in our world of connections and sharing. Customers trust word-of-mouth because it comes from their disinterested friends, family or online community.
When a business first opens or releases a new product, they might be tempted to “get the ball rolling” by asking employees or relatives to post favorable reviews, but this dishonesty might cost them. Online word-of-mouth marketing only works because customers trust the recommendations, reviews and ratings. It’s dangerous to risk losing that trust.
For instance, potential customers might spot the fakes and publicly denounce the reviews. Even worse, the FTC might come knocking on your door. From an FTC news release:
“A public relations agency hired by video game developers will settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it engaged in deceptive advertising by having employees pose as ordinary consumers posting game reviews at the online iTunes store, and not disclosing that the reviews came from paid employees working on behalf of the developers.”
Clearly, this PR agency will have a difficult time reclaiming its reputation. As with every aspect of life, honesty is the best policy. Inspire real customers with great experiences, and you won’t need to run the risk of fake word-of-mouth.
City planning and zoning divisions can be a thorn in a marketer’s side. But if you don’t know the ordinances of your town, you could end up like this guy, who was slapped with a $500 fine for marketing with chalk on the sidewalk. The next time you have a breakthrough outdoor marketing idea that hasn’t been tried in your area, check the local codes to ensure there’s not a reason no one else is doing it.
Ordinances can be tricky, so read carefully. A client of mine is located in a township that will only allow businesses to display an outdoor banner if they are approved for a permit. The permit allows the business to display the banner for 15 days, but you can only have one permit every six months. We had to prioritize which two 15-day periods in the year were most important to the business and plan far ahead to make sure we received permit approval in time.
Don't be scared. They are just people in suits.
If you have to present your outdoor marketing plan at a council meeting, leave nothing to the imagination. Create mock-ups and show pictures from where the idea has been implemented elsewhere. You’re trying to convince a committee, so your visual evidence should be as compelling as possible. By showing council members your plan is aesthetically pleasing, you will remove their fear of marring their town’s image.
The imagination of the marketer often is at odds with the strict codes of some planning and zoning divisions, but through careful planning, you can make your outdoor marketing as effective as possible.