This past Sunday, I hopped into the car with three old friends, drove to the Rockwood Ice Cream Festival in New Castle County Delaware, and armed with a pocketful of cash and a handful of lactose intolerance pills, ate my way through the joint. I told my wife I was going solely for the purpose of researching this article for you. She knows better.
Along with a few taste-testing reviews, I want to share some off the cuff observations regarding human behavior and how it relates to effective marketing.
The first observation comes in the form of the core CounterThink principle—Novelty.
The Novelty principle tells us: we have two choices in life: we can dissolve into the mainstream, or we can be distinct. To be distinct, we must be different.
We all like to discover new and different things. And that’s because our brains are hardwired to be attracted to that which is unique, unusual—novel.
Deep inside the middle of our brain is a region known as the Substantia Nigra/Ventral Segmental Area or SN/VTA. This region of our midbrain is responsible for regulating our motivation and reward-processing by releasing a shot of a “feel-good” neurochemical known as Dopamine, whenever we discover something new or different. This biological reaction to novelty is what makes CounterThink so potent a strategy.
As you might imagine, from its name, the Rockwood Ice Cream Festival had a considerable number of ice cream vendors in attendance. Yet predictably, out of all those vendors competing for the attention of the crowd, the longest lines were inevitably in front of those vendors that were most novel, in one way or another.
Take Little Baby’s Ice Cream, for instance. Here the unusual flavors took center stage: Earl Grey Sriracha, which they tout as their “flagship weirdo flavor”, Cucumber dill, which tastes like it sounds: pickles and ice cream, and Pizza Flavored Ice Cream—consisting of tomato, oregano, basil, salt and yes, garlic— which was just weird enough to be featured on ABC’s popular morning show, Kelly and Michael. Even Little Baby’s toned-down flavors were far from normal: Cherry Hibiscus, Peanut Butter Maple Tarragon, Vanilla Cardamom Cream and Birch Beer Vanilla Bean.
Different most definitely gets attention… and a lot of business. I stood in line for 15 minutes to taste some of what they had to offer, and I’ll go out of my way to have them again.
The next observation and marketing point will likely be familiar to those of you in the entertainment and hospitality industries. It has to do with the power of: Showmanship and Storytelling.
Showmanship is all about symbolism, pageantry and leaving lasting impressions.
When it comes to understanding the art and craft of marketing-showmanship, there’s no better expert I know of than, Sydney Biddle Barrows.
Back in the 1980’s, Sydney Barrows, a Philadelphia debutant whose ancestors arrived in America aboard the Mayflower, became infamously known as the Mayflower Madam, when she was charged with running a $1 million-a-year, call-girl operation, from her Upper West Side apartment in New York City.
What made Sydney’s operation unique, from other red-light establishments, had to do with her painstaking attention to detail. First, everything about the client’s experience was not just planned… it was literally choreographed. Her ladies, as she referred to them, were anything but cheap hookers. They looked, dressed, acted and spoke like, the refined, well bred high society women their clientele would normally be seen out on the town with. Only later, as the date progressed, did their naughty side reveal itself. The entire experience—from beginning to happy ending—was meticulously staged to portray an air of quality and respectability and, of course, mystery and seduction.
Today, Sydney makes as equally a good living, as a marketing consultant, specializing in what she calls, Sales Choreography. Some of Sydney’s highest paying clients are cosmetic surgeons. And doctors being doctors and not marketers, the medicos tend to make a lot of very rudimentary marketing blunders. The most common mistakes, in her opinion, involve what Sydney might call staging.
Perception is reality. In such a high-trust interaction, how the doctor presents himself or herself, how well the staff interacts with potential clients, the physical layout and appearance of the office, including the quality and style of the décor, the degree to which the client’s unspoken concerns are addressed and the manner in which fees are presented and collected —all play critical roles in the overall success of the business.
Sydney says it’s all about details and consistency. In most cases the doctors themselves tend to play their role effectively—dressing the part—in a crisp, long white coat, their waiting room, exam rooms and private office are typically well appointed, and so on. But once the potential client is handed off to the office staff (which is where fees are likely discussed), according to Sydney, is where it all goes to hell.
Sydney says she has seen it all—cheap Formica-topped desks, rickety chairs, cluttered and messy work areas, broken-down filing cabinets, even rude, lax and slovenly office staff.
Showmanship is all about optics: every gesture, every prop, every word you utter, every visual cue and nod of the head plays a part in the overall performance. One slight misstep or off cue interaction sours a prospect’s overall opinion.
First impressions matter, yes. But so do second, third, fourth and fifth impressions; people weigh the whole experience, not just parts of it. You gotta get it all right—right down to the smallest detail. Bottom Line, as Sydney puts it, if you’re charging somebody $30,000 for a face-lift, you’d best not be seen charting notes with a fifty-cent Bic pen.
Well, good showmanship can sell a lot more than boob-jobs and ice cream; it can help you sell just about anything. The best example of showmanship I saw at the ice cream festival was not by an ice cream vendor at all, it came by way of a guy selling high-priced aerial videography services.
In addition to flying his drone-copters over the festival, while live-streaming HD Video onto a big-screen monitor, the owner of the business had one of his clients, real estate broker Will Webber, helping out at his booth, and Will was dressed up in somewhat of an unusual, attention-getting get up.
I don’t know how the owner, Daniel Herbert, did it, but he somehow convinced Mr. Webber, who sports the title, “most interesting realtor in Delaware,” to wear a homemade, hardhat-like contraption, rigged with red, white and blue, flashing LED lights and a full-sized, working drone atop it. Well, it worked. You had to fight your way through crowds to get anywhere close to the action. A goofy, hat’s off to both men for the art of showmanship in action.
Showmanship is indeed mesmerizing, but it sometimes takes a set of brass balls to pull it off— because, like the guy wearing an outrageous drone-hat, it’s easy to feel as if you’re making a fool of yourself.
Follow these guys lead, and you’ll laugh your way all the way to the bank.
Don’t forget to tune into Part 2 of this adventure when we’ll talk about Brain Science, Sugar Pills & Crowds.
Until then… Stay weird, My friend