#10 The Dragon, the Airshow & the Radio Host
As the Marketing and Communications Director for a nonprofit based in Santa Fe, I'll never forget the day when our Executive Director came into my office to tell me we were going to host a Renaissance Fair. "A Renaissance Fair?" I had never even BEEN to a Renaissance Fair except I knew that they were BIG. Certainly out of my league - and not suited to my buck-fifty marketing budget.
This was in April of 2008. I was informed that the Fair would take place in September. As any (honest) marketing person can tell you, that's not a lot of time to put together a "major" event. Not to mention I had no earthly clue what a Renaissance Fair was even about - except for maybe turkey legs or jousters.
Like a good little soldier, I joined our team comprised of mostly Renaissance devotees (there is a lot of people out there who like to dress up, folks) to find out more about the event and prayed I could figure out a way to promote this with no money and not much time.
It's funny how nice people can be if you work for a nonprofit and you're desperate. I was able to connect to tourism bureaus, convention center websites and basically anybody I knew in media or radio. Basically this meant working until 9:00 pm each night getting the word out while the volunteer committee did an amazing job coordinating the entertainers and vendors (including the elusive turkey leg vendor - apparently a rare commodity in our neck of the woods).
Well, there was competition on the horizon. The dreaded Air Show. Yes, it was to be the same weekend as our event. What are the odds! I watched their expensive television ads and thought of our sorry looking signs and posting on the marquee at the School for the Blind and knew we were in trouble. How could we compete with that?
When there is a will, there is a way - and when there is a job involved you really have to find a way. To make a long story short, Classic Radio stations, NBC in Albuquerque and other media were very kind to us. I was even able to wrangle a Highway Traffic alert sign donated by the City of Santa Fe when I pulled a favor (not THAT kind of favor) as a beacon to the venue which was off of I-10 - the beautiful, but rather hidden, El Rancho de las Golondrinas, just South of Santa Fe.
MY TOP TEN MARKETING MISTAKE: I was able to land a radio interview on the most popular radio show in Santa Fe during drive time. This was big - it was the Friday night before the weekend event when people are relaxed and planning their weekend. I had 15 minutes with the infamous Diego Mulligan. Still fairly new to radio, I was nervous. We chatted about the features of the event - an elaborate 6 ft. tall dragon created by a top costume designer in the area and of course the belly dancers, beer court, jousters, etc. I couldn't say the price on the air (station rules) which was a fraction of the airshow price. As the show wrapped up I knew I hadn't hit the mark. What to do?
I saw visions of people only attending the air show and uneaten turkey legs at our event. As the engineer and host were making hand gestures, circling their ears to wrap up, I suddenly blurted out:
"YOU CAN SEE AN AIRPLANE ANYDAY BUT HOW OFTEN CAN YOU SEE A 6 FOOT TALL DRAGON?" Cut.
The radio host and his staff loved it and I received several calls right after the show. I still don't know where that came from.
MARKETING MISTAKE: Positioning
Figure out ALL the ways you differ from your competition as soon as possible and use it to your advantage. It's OK if you have little money for marketing - you can STILL stand out. Never "dis" your competitors - just say why you are unique and give the benefits of your product or service.
WHY THIS WORKED: By positioning the dragon against an airplane it gave an interesting visual for listeners and was another "twist" on the promotion. This isn't all about the radio show, of course, but our official attendee count was 4267. This broke all records for a first time event at this venue. This isn't all about me - there were many hard-working, very talented people involved, but the veteran Renfair performers all thanked me for my efforts. The Santa Fe Renaissance Fair is now an annual event held every September.
Stay Tuned for "My Top 10 Marketing Mistakes and Why They Worked: The Case of the Inappropriate Giveaway."