In our last installment of Sharp, Shiny Objects and the People Who Love Them, I gave you some insight into the brain science behind the collecting gene and how you can use it to your advantage in your own marketing plans.

This week, I’ll share some additional lessons I learned walking the show floor of Blade Show 2015.  We’ll examine what I think was done well, what I believe could have been improved, and what totally missed the mark.  And then, I’ll dig through my box of old memories and share a powerful marketing tactics that has been used for decades to keep them coming back for more… 

First…What was done well: One good example of doing something counterintuitive was Emerson Knives. Emerson conducts a well-advertised lottery for a chance to “win” a chance to buy a knife. No. That wasn’t a misprint. You don’t win the knife. You win a chance to buy the knife. Brilliant!

This counterintuitive marketing tactic actually capitalizes, not only on the power of collecting, but on the psychological motivator known as scarcity.

Rare or scarce things have a higher perceived value; command more demand, and earn a higher price than those things that are considered plentiful and common (think gold and diamonds versus aluminum and glass).

Emerson pulls it off brilliantly, too—creating a carnival atmosphere around the lottery. The result was predictable. Potential buyers overran their booth. As the saying goes, nothing draws a crowd like a crowd.

What could have improved: Even though this show is well attended, I’d have to say that the promoter actually dropped the ball. The layout of the venue was scatterbrained—no logical areas of interest or floor plan to guide returning attendees to their favorite vendors or knife makers. Imagine a supermarket, with truck tires displayed right next to the broccoli and the fresh fish section scattered throughout the toilet paper aisle. If there was a rhythm to the layout, it escaped me.

Although the crowd was mostly young and tech savvy, there was no kind of floor plan app, to guide attendees from the venue parking lot to and through the exhibit hall.

If there were an app, I might have suggested designing it in such a way, as to encourage and reward hardcore collectors (your best customer), to visit certain select knife makers (who, of course, would pay for the advertising).   The show website was not mobile friendly, and the painfully slow scrolling java applet, alphabetically listing the exhibitors was not at all interactive— so if you were looking to see if knife maker, say, “Yanik Zelder” was exhibiting, the damn show would be over before you’d have your answer.

There was an “Early Bird Ticket” option which allowed early access to the show floor, but considering the line for Early Bird ticket holders was over 2000 feet long, they might consider upping the price from twenty-five bucks to maybe somewhere north of a hundred— as one sharp, young marketer in our group suggested. I’m confident he is right-on-the-money with his observation, plus, making it more expensive to gain the privilege, would have added to the value of that hardcore collector’s experience.

Certain people will always pay for the privilege of exclusivity. Coincidently, they are the same people who pay for first-class airfare, stay on the hotel’s concierge level and who will gladly pay top dollar for special access and one-of-a-kind bragging rights. If you are not including some type of “restricted” level offering in your marketing mix, you are losing out on a goldmine.

What missed the mark: One of the most effective tools a marketer can use when selling to collectors, is to provide them with a means to store and display their collection.

If any one of the knife makers, at this tradeshow, was effectively using this valuable selling tool, I sure as hell missed it.

There were one or two keen, forward-thinking entrepreneurs who were selling display cases and knife collection pouch thingies, and a few knife makers who sold their knives in presentation boxes, but damn near everyone there missed the mark with this one.

One of the best examples of marketing properly to collectors is the Franklin Mint.

When I was a kid, a friend’s father, an airline pilot, started collecting pure silver airliner tail section replicas, minted by the Franklin Mint.

The miniature “Airlines of the World” collectibles were replicas of the vertical part of the tail section (where the airline logo traditionally appears) of various commercial airliners.

Each miniature was forged from sterling silver, which gave them a greater perceived value. Each piece was shaped in the form of an actual tail section, measured a little over an inch in height and weighed about half an ounce.

One of the smartest things Franklin Mint did, when my buddy’s dad started his collection was to send him— free of charge— a beautiful four-drawer, handcrafted walnut chest to house his treasured collection.   The drawers of the chest contained individual cutouts—one for each of the hundred pieces in the numbered set.

The chest also came with a leather-bound booklet, containing a background story on the history of each airline in the collection, a biography of the artist that designed the piece, where the piece was struck, the exact specifications, certificate of authenticity and so on. Looking back in marketing hindsight, the tactical psychology behind this deal was brilliant. Absolutely, fucking brilliant.

On Franklin Mint’s part, the single act of giving away the walnut box and booklet all but insured that my friend’s father would continue collecting those overpriced thingamabobs, until each and every one of those empty slots, in each and every one of those four, hand-rubbed, solid walnut drawers were filled with a shiny, new sterling silver tailpiece. At the very least, he would continue to buy far more of those damn things than he ever would, if Franklin Mint hadn’t provided the, free, snazzy empty case and provenance. And that’s not me speculating. It’s a proven fact—one that Franklin Mint and other smart marketers of collectibles still rely on.

The big lesson here is: just because you have sold a customer a product, don’t miss the opportunity to sell her a slightly new or different version of the same product.   And if you are selling or giving away something that people might collect (which is, as we have already discussed—damn near anything), be sure to provide your customer with a device to hold the collection—one with plenty of empty space, just calling out to be filled.   And don’t forget to tell a great story about the collection and provide a Certificate of Authenticity.  It all adds up to more money under your mattress.

Until we meet again…stay weird, my friend