How to Avoid the Gimmick

How often have you heard something dismissed as “just a marketing gimmick”? Anything that seems too quirky, too good to be true, or too annoying is lumped together as a gimmick, and summarily ignored by today’s cynical consumer.

If you’re looking for unique marketing ideas, you have a fine line to walk between cool and gimmicky. Here’s a few questions to ask yourself:

Are you (jokingly) promising something you can’t deliver? Marketing history is full of rewards programs offering joke prizes for millions of points. What may have netted a chuckle in the 80s and 90s will earn eye rolls in the 21st century.

Instead… Suggest ridiculous alternate uses for the prizes you’re actually offering.

Could your idea be described as a publicity stunt? Does anybody even pull publicity stunts anymore, or are they too easily picked apart on social media? This is another idea whose times has passed.

Instead… Create a viral video or hashtag campaign to get people talking about your product…. and it’s easier than organizing a skydiving flashmob who will form your logo in midair.

Does your idea involve mailing something to your customers? Who was the marketer who came up with the idea of sending out keys that you’re supposed to bring to the dealer to see if you won a car? What am I supposed to do with this key? Nobody wants extra junk mail, especially when they can’t recycle it.

Instead… Meet your customers where they are. Engage with them on social media, and run contests that involve interacting with you. It will boost your social media ranking, and nothing ends up in the landfill when you’re done.

Does your idea involve a cute animal? If so, can you tell me more about it?

Instead… No, there’s no instead here. Cute animals are the one gimmick that overcomes most peoples’ inherent cynicism. Does anyone care that KLM doesn’t actually return Lost & Found items with the help of an adorable beagle? No we do not.

Of course, not all of us have access to a well-trained and charismatic dog, but KLM’s video serves as an example of how to take the old gimmick trick and make it work. Although you know if you leave your phone on your flight from NY to Amsterdam, it probably won’t be returned to your hands by an enthusiastic beagle, after watching that video you still feel pretty confident that your lost items are in good hands, and that you’re going to get good customer service. And that’s the difference between a cheesy gimmick and a good viral marketing idea – it leaves your potential customers with warm fuzzy feelings and a lingering good impression, not the sense that you’re trying to pull one over on them.

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