Be Creative, Do the Unexpected, and Appeal to Emotions--All Without Being Arnold Horshack.

The other day I was riding my bike through the park when I noticed three gorgeous parrots sitting on top of a fence surrounding the playground. I was intrigued because you don’t see that kind of thing around here very often, so I took a quick detour to go check it out. On my way into the playground, one of the birds greeted me with a loud “HELLO!” from high atop the fence. I wasn’t expecting that (Duh!  Parrots…talking…who knew?) and I admit it scared the heck out of me, but once I got over myself, I noticed how much attention these birds were attracting.

There were two handlers there with the parrots, and they were having a great time interacting with the public and letting parents take pictures of their kids with the birds on their shoulders. All they had with them to identify themselves were shirts with the name and logo of their pet store printed on them. There were no brochures; there was no flashy mini-van with EXOTIC PETS written on it parked in the lot, there was nothing like that. They didn’t make a big “look at us we’re so awesome!” event out of it. Not that there’s anything wrong with vehicle wraps and brochures—they all have a place in your marketing mix, but sometimes, less is more. Instead of being flashy that day, they were just two people from a pet store showing off their exotic birds and hangin’ out.

I’ve always thought parrots were pretty cool, but after seeing them up close like that and interacting with them, I wondered if maybe I could be that kind of guy—one who owns a parrot and teaches it to sing the Rocky theme song to me while I get ready for work in the morning. And then I thought, “what a great marketing idea!”  I’m always going to remember that experience, and more importantly, I’ll always remember what pet store provided it. If I ever get my wife to approve such a purchase, what pet store do you think I’m going to go to?


A part of that decision was the fact that the “high pressure sale” was nowhere to be seen. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how hard it is to get a consumer’s attention in a way that’s meaningful and memorable. People these days are bombarded with so many messages coming from every direction imaginable. There’s a lot of competition for their attention and everyone seems to be getting louder and bigger to get their message noticed over all the others. Is there another way to get grab some eyeballs without looking like Arnold Horshack trying to get Mr. Kotter’s attention? (Hi five if you get that reference without clicking the link.)

Maybe the answer is not to ramp up the intensity and jump up and down shouting, “Oooh! Oooh! Oooh!” Maybe something quieter and more creative in this age of flash and hype is an option for getting noticed? Often, that kind of stuff is also the most memorable.

The parrot people didn’t have anything terribly complicated and flashy going on at the playground, but look what they got out of it?  I’m on the Internet talking about that experience, and I might actually go and buy a parrot from them (if my wife will let me)!

Creativity is key here. One great way to get some creative juices flowing is to find out what your competitors are doing, and do the opposite! What got me to go over to that playground?  I saw parrots in an unexpected place and I was intrigued. Normally, you’d expect to see exotic pet retailers at a mall or at an exotic pet show, not at the playground!  Going out of your element and doing something totally unexpected is a great way to get noticed—and by a whole new group of people, too!

Another remarkable thing about the parrots was the emotional engagement they inspired. Parents were lined up with their kids to get a picture with the parrots, and everyone was laughing and enjoying themselves. Those families will always remember that day, and those wily parrot people got to be a part of that—they made it happen!  It’s so hard to reach people on an emotional level and create a magical experience, but it’s one of the biggest things you can do to really reach your customers. So many of our decisions are not based on rational, logical thoughts—they’re based on emotions.

For example, who buys a pet because it’s a logical thing to do?  Almost nobody. I mean, let’s be honest. Does anyone truly buy a dog because they want to go for walks at 5:00 am and pick up little doggie “presents” along the way?  Nope, but they do it because they’re emotionally engaged with their pet.

If you can find a way to get into people’s hearts, you win. That personal connection isn’t only what will get attention, but it’s what’s going to set you apart from your competitors too. Not only that, but it will lead to far more word-of-mouth marketing and networking. It doesn’t matter whether you’re selling pets or car insurance, you’ve still gotta be creative: do the unexpected, appeal to emotions and you’re in!


  • Wed, 07/27/2011 - 12:37pm reply

    You got it! This is excatly how I run my business and because I don't use high pressure tactics, I am enjoying myself, my customers are enjoying themsleves. You know the old saying "If you love your job, you'll never work a day in your life" Well, it's true. I don't want my customers to just "come into" my shop,I want them to "expirience it". My goal is to get them in just once, the shop will sell itself after that. Thanks for the blog post Adam! 

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