Marketing through props

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Pool sharks, egg cartons, monkeys, tigers. Got your attention? That is exactly what advertising executives and small-business owners should be striving for: getting a potential buyer’s immediate and undivided attention.

“It’s marketing 101,” said Linda Snyder, owner of Monument-based Special Effects Design and Marketing. “People are inundated with ads, and the key to marketing success is to immediately grab their attention.

“I tend to work with small-business owners, who are often intimidated and overwhelmed by the marketing process, so they end up doing nothing,” she said. “And people have to know, even though word-of-mouth is still No. 1, you can’t rely on just one advertising avenue.”

Snyder said consistent and honest advertising is important because “consumers are becoming more savvy” to products and prices. She said there are many cost effective, budget-driven and clever ways to advertise smart. What is the best way to catch someone’s attention? “The unexpected,” Snyder said.

Snyder created an unusual and unsuspecting advertising campaign for Richard and Kim Carson, owners of Nationwide Floor & Window Coverings. Kim Carson said networking and marketing efforts can easily get “lost in the crowd” among real estate agents and builders, their target clients for the flooring products.

Snyder came up with a marketing idea using egg cartons. She wrapped the cartons with flyers sporting catchy phrases such as “there is an eggsciting opportunity waiting for you,” and “let Nationwide & unscramble your brain and make your customers’ home furnishing needs over easy.” Inside the cartons were a dozen plastic eggs filled with candy and a gift certificate for a free breakfast at the Egg & I restaurant. Inventive, inexpensive, witty, and it worked, Carson said. One builder, who had not returned any of Carson’s previous calls, finally responded when he intercepted the egg carton.

Snyder also created a microwave popcorn enveloped with a “just popping in to say hi” theme for the Carsons to give to real estate agents. Kim Carson also promotes her business through regular cookie and doughnut deliveries and refilling previously placed candy jars.

“Marketing efforts must stand out above the competition and connect with the client,” Carson said. “Food works.” Even as a franchise owner, with corporate support, Carson feels it is important to develop a relationship with a strong marketing professional. “You have to be unique somehow, and that professional can help,” she said.

Other business owners simply capitalize on opportunities and ideas. Tammy and Robert Stuart own Springs Spas & Home Recreation Inc. in Colorado Springs. They started with two spas purchased on their credit cards and talked managers at Foxworth/Galbreath Lumber Co. & Associates (then Brookharts Lumber) into selling the spas from the store parking lot. In exchange, Robert Stuart would help push their decking material and offer in-store coupons to his spa customers. That marketing idea eventually earned the respect of Marquis, a major spa dealer, and soon thereafter, the Stuarts signed their first commercial lease. A couple of years ago, the Stuarts expanded to a 9,000 square-foot store at 6275 Corporate Drive. They achieved success by capitalizing on ideas and seizing opportunities.

“No idea is too crazy,” Tammy Stuart said. In December 2003, the Stuarts attended a trade show in Las Vegas, and Escalade (another major spa dealer) representatives invited them to an exclusive showing of the company’s new line of pool tables. At dinner, Tammy Stuart sat next to the Escalade spokeswoman, Jeannette Lee, also known, in pool-shooting circles, as the Black Widow. In 1994, Lee was the No. 1-ranked pool player in the world. She also is a former world champion and gold medal winner.

Stuart and Lee hit it off, and, when Lee told Stuart that her daughter had requested a return trip to Colorado Springs to ride horses, Stuart seized the moment. She had close ties with a Springs stable owner and promised Lee she could hook up her daughter with endless horseback experiences, if Lee would agree to an in-store promotion at Springs Spas. Lee agreed.

Stuart amplified the promotion by including the American Cancer Society as the event’s charity. Prior to the Black Widow’s Dec. 6 appearance, the Stuarts attended the American Cancer Society’s annual gala and gathered support for their event by carrying around a cardboard cut out of Jeanette Lee. To add more spice and extra monies for the cancer society, the Stuarts challenged local pool playing enthusiasts to purchase bids to compete against Lee. The Stuarts also sold raffle tickets for a pool table donated by Escalade. On Dec. 6, the Black Widow arrived with media in tow and a standing-room-only crowd. It all worked beautifully, and it cost us little to no money, Stuart said.

The Stuarts engaged in a cross-marketing effort with Freedom Financial in May. During Territory Days in Old Colorado City, the companies signed up more than 800 people for a $3,500 spa give-away. Ticket holders had to be present for the drawing at Springs Spas the following weekend. Stuart said the store was packed, and they sold three spas. Stuart hooked up with Freedom Financial again this month to offer a $500 gift certificate (the cost was split between the companies) at Springs Spas to anyone who closed on a loan by June 30. Freedom Financial initiated and paid for the advertising, and we are simply tagging on to their efforts, Stuart said.

Through their associations with Lee, the Stuarts gained another opportunity to tout their wares. The editor of Aqua, the business magazine for spa and pool professionals, is a good friend of the Black Widow. Aqua featured the Stuarts in the March edition of the magazine’s “Success Stories” column. “When luck comes your way, you’d better be prepared for it,” Stuart said. “Traditional methods of marketing are good, but today you have to be very creative to compete.”

Jake Jabs has known creative marketing for 29 years. He opened his first American Furniture Warehouse store in 1975, and now owns nine stores along the Front Range and one in Glenwood Springs. He is opening a second Springs store at Powers and Constitution in the near future.

The name, American Furniture Warehouse, along with Jabs’ face, is synonymous with animals. Jabs has successfully branded his company by drawing on the emotions of Americans who cannot resist the lure of cuddly and cute-looking tiger pups or raucous chimpanzees. His nationally televised commercials are as familiar to households as the Budweiser frog was to a couple of Super Bowls, and Jabs’ animal promos have outdistanced the frog.

It all started when Jabs brought home a puppy for his three daughters, who insisted that their father include the puppy in his television commercials. Although Jabs could not envision animals and furniture together on the big screen, he adhered to his daughters’ wishes, and the response was phenomenal. When a local car dealer was filming a commercial with cougars, Jabs’ secretary coerced the animal trainer into bringing a baby tiger to American Furniture Warehouse. Observing their engaging presence among staff and customers, Jabs continued his animal/furniture advertisements, adding the wild animals. The rest is history. The animals are his trademark.

Jabs said he uses no circus animals – all of the animals in the commercials were rescued from negative situations. The owners volunteer the animals. “All I know is that the animal commercials make people remember us,” Jabs said. “Marketing is important, and maintaining a clean and well-displayed store with lots of merchandise is equally important.”

Jabs adheres to the Wal-Mart philosophy: Everyday low prices. He doesn’t believe in percentage-off sales or free interest deals. “It’s just a hook, and s
ome of it is phony,” Jabs said. “When stores advertise that something is marked down from $100 to $50, the truth is that the item has always been $50. That kind of thing turns people off.”

What turns people on has to be unique and captivating from the start.

From the AFLAC duck to the GEICO gecko to Brittany Spears’ bare-bellied, sexy garb, it’s about the props first, then the product.

- Editorial@csbj.com