08 October, 2007

That’s Advertisement!

Want to prove you have the hottest chili? How about a cloud of nearly toxic smoke, a HAZMAT team, cordoning off and evacuating three city blocks, and firefighters breaking down your front door? That’s what happened to the London restaurant Thai Cottage last Monday. The chef was preparing nine pounds of extra-hot chili peppers for a spicy Thai-dip, which owner Sue Wasboonma described as the “the hottest thing we make…and customers love it.” Wasboonma also speculated that the reason the smoke didn’t go up into the sky was because of the rain and heavy air. A waitress noted, “Next time we might put some posters up to say we are cooking the dip.”

That’s advertisement, a dip so hot you need to warn THE NEIGHBORHOOD about it. How can other restaurants even compete with that?

Restaurant: Our sauce is hot.
Customer: Does it require a three-hour blockade, HAZMAT team, fire brigade and notifying the neighborhood every time you make it?
Restaurant: No.
Customer: Then it can’t be that hot.

I’m sure once their front door is fixed, the 17-year-old restaurant will sell out of this particular dip (which they make only once a year) very quickly.

Now, I’m not going to recommend this sort of marketing (accidental as it were)—public mayhem and cloud of scary smoke—but you get the idea. Sometimes you have to think big. And I’m not talking a giant gorilla on the roof of your car dealership big. Honey, look, a giant crazed gorilla. We should buy a car there. I mean outside-the-box big.
Remember the whole cartoon network Boston terrorism scandal from this past winter?
That brought national media attention to a crudely animated 15-minute television show on Adult Swim, a Cartoon Network brand that airs only 45 hours of television per week (there are 168 hours in a week). And the Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie—the Cartoon Network show and movie that feature the characters shown in the Boston LED displays—doubled its estimated $1.5 million budget on opening weekend this April.

Now the negatives. Turner Broadcasting, Cartoon Network’s parent company (a division of Time Warner), was not fined, but they offered to pay $2 million in restitution to the city of Boston, and the incident cost the head of Cartoon Network his job. Also, this campaign was carried out in 10 U.S. cities, but Boston was the only place where it grabbed any attention. However, after the Boston scare, people across the country began searching for these devices, and saved them as collector’s items or sold them on eBay for as much as $5000. Nevertheless, in 9 out of 10 cities, the advertising may have gone for naught.

Still, you can’t buy advertising like that. And $2 million is nothing for a company as large as Time Warner. Warner Bros. probably spent 10 times that marketing Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

Now, I’m not saying you should create some sort of bombing hoax. Sarin gas will never help your business! I repeat, “DO NOT ORGANIZE A BOMB HOAX TO ADVERTISE.” I’ve gone on the record many times with that advice. NO BOMBS!
Why? 1) That’s a stupid question. 2) $2 million is a lot of money. Can your company afford a $2 million hit in the wallet? 3) It only cost Turner $2 million and some bad press. Thai Cottage (although their “advertisement” was not planned) suffered a broken front door and loss of business for an afternoon. Heaven forbid there was a riot or someone further misunderstood the situation or that maybe one of Cartoon Network’s ad gorillas took things a little too far.
The point is, they thought bigger (or as in the case of Thai Cottage, were blessed with an interesting accident). They went outside the box. Granted, once you go outside the box, suddenly everyone copies you, and pulls the box back around you. But people remember the companies who did it first and the companies who did it best. Whether you’re an edgy, relatively new product like Adult Swim, or a product that’s been around for decades like Budweiser, Geico or Travelers Insurance, you have to be willing to buck the trend and try something different. The problem with trying something different is it’s scary. Because if it doesn’t work, you’ve spent all that money and are right back where you started. But if it does work, you may bring your brand or product to an entirely new audience, make tons of money for your company, and look like a genius in the process.
In the changing marketplace and in the world, those who adapt, succeed. Those who remain stagnant, die. So you can take a risk and possibly fail or do nothing and die. Hmmm. Risk sounds good.
-Captain Awesome, Project Specialist

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1 others 'fessed up:

hg bodine October 9, 2007 at 3:08 PM  

because of the bomb being ABOVE the red circle with a line through it, it appears as if you are actually dropping a bomb on the red circle with a line through it, thereby making it appear that you actually do endorse bombs and bombing anything that gets in your way.

also, if you want to know about hot, read the product disclaimer for this. i am in no way affiliated with Blair's hot sauces or Extreme Foods, i'm just a huge fan.

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