Using the Right Coke Cans

November 27, 2011

There are dozens of examples in the Carnie business that can be lessons for the marketing business.  I’m a Carnie, I should know.

For instance, a retailer with no writing experience who is writing his own radio commercials is, for sure, missing many of the things a creative writer brings to the table.  And I am not just referring to the fantastic, big idea — although that is often what separates the marketing expert from the every day retailer.  The retailer is imitating what he thinks a commercial is.  But it is just an imitation.

Let me give you a Carnie Marketing example.

I have a great carnival game – a big idea in the Carnie world – called EXTRAVACANZA that I invented and built myself.  It involves picking up one of hundreds of identical Coke cans with a magnetic “fishing pole” and checking the colour on the bottom of the can to determine the prize. In Carnie vernacular it is known as a fishpond because it’s a game of chance like a traditional fishpond game.  No skill involved.

One day at the Canadian National Exhibition a competitor came to me when the game was jammed with players and asked if it would be okay to set up the same game at a local county fair.  Since most Carnie games are not patented, it’s quite normal for one guy to copy another guy if he thinks he can make money with the same (or similar) game.  So, I told him to go ahead.  And he did, without so much as question about how I had figured out and built the game.

This guy’s “knock off” failed miserably and he discontinued operating it just a week after launching it due to its many problems and lack of business. Mine drew crowds; his was a dud.

His imitation might have looked like mine, (and even that he didn’t get quite right) but it didn’t have real Carnie marketing knowledge behind it.   Plus, I had tested my game at some small fairs and kept updating it until it was a money-making machine.

There are two elements I would have told him about, if he had asked.  Which would have guaranteed that his setup would have worked as well as mine.

First, he didn’t need to use Coke cans.  But he did need cans that were made of steel rather than aluminum.  That is the only way the magnetic fishing poles could “catch” one of the cans.  Plus aluminum cans blow over at the slightest gust of wind.

Second, you didn’t really need Coke cans but the idea of such a huge brand appearing in a carnival game, and the 1970’s style of the cans made the game an irresistible curiosity – a draw.

He missed at least a dozen other key requirements because he was imitating the superficial look of the game, not (excuse the advertising joke) the real thing.

So to with marketing.  Whether it’s writing your own commercials or designing your own ads or coming up with the big idea… if you don’t have someone on your team who has the knowledge of which Coke cans to use, you have minimal chance at success, at best.  You end up with imitation marketing that won’t stand up.

If you liked this article, check out the other Carnie Marketing installments.  You can learn a lot at the Carnival!

Marketing vs the Flat Store

Pitch-Till-U-Win Marketing

Bingo Retailing – A Billion-To-One Shot At Winning Customers

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