No, you can’t have a moment of my time

22 Jun

Today’s BADvertising rant is about brand ambassadors/promoters-assaulting-me-with-fliers.

You know who I’m referring to. They lurk on busy street corners and beg, plead ask for a moment of your time. Or, maybe they don’t even ask. Maybe they jump out in front of you and start rambling. Maybe they get into your personal space and prevent you from escaping, FORCING you to feign interest and accept a flier.

What do you do when you walk away? Do you discard the flier right away? Do you shove it into your bag and discard it later? Do you give them fake information and make a run for it?

Let me show you how interested I am.

Street campaigns are ineffective because people don’t like being hassled in the street. They’re skeptical of anyone asking for personal information (that’s you, charities!). Nobody wants to be pressured into signing up for a credit card. Hard selling puts people off. They walk away with a bad taste in their mouth.

It was 34 ºC (93.2 ºF) in Toronto today. I was wearing work clothes and walking on a busy street at 4:30 PM. Now picture this. I’m walking. Quickly. With two heavy bags on my shoulder. It’s rip-off-your-clothes-like-the-hulk HOT. I’m sweating. I look angry. I’m probably in a hurry to catch my train home (like everyone else). I’m also wearing sunglasses AND I have earbuds in my ears. I’m the poster child for “anti-social”. I was approached by someone who can’t read body language. If you don’t have a portable freezer or a hose in that backpack, I’m not stopping. I ignored her.

This is the beginning of Toronto’s rush hour. A crowd of suits pours out of a highrise and onto the street. You get the picture. Everyone’s done work and they’re clamoring to go somewhere. Toronto is a big city. Toronto is also considered one of the world’s rudest cities. Us Torontonians don’t move at a leisurely pace. And we don’t like being stopped when we’re in a hurry. This unbearably hot weather + lovely Toronto smog isn’t making things better. We’re especially resentful of strangers trying to get our attention and try to a) sell us something we don’t want, b) convert us, or c) guilt us into subscribing to a charity. What do we do? We ignore them. We start walking faster. Or, we take their flier and toss it.

Just try to stop them.

Are street campaigns completely useless? Not if you’re handing out free samples of your product. Think about it. You’re handing out free gum to promote a new flavour. You’re letting people know that you have a new flavour. AND you’re giving them a chance to try it and decide whether they like it. If your packaging is bright and original, people are likely to recognize it at the store and buy it! Imagine that.

If you can’t hand out free samples, there’s hope for you too. Creative street campaigns are a great way to promote your product/cause. If your campaign is creative enough, people will actually come up to you and WANT what you’re promoting. Get their attention. Make it flashy. Keep it classy. You want genuine interest.

Here’s a case in point: I saw a group of girls dressed in Statue of Liberty costumes (complete with green face paint and crown) in front of a major Toronto courthouse. This is in a busy area. People were flocking to them because they wanted to know who they were and what they were doing. These girls were handing out scratch-and-save coupons for flights to NYC.

We’re annoyed by street campaigners. By telemarketers calling us at home. By junk mail sent to our home and our e-mails. By ads popping up when we’re on the internet. By ads on the television. How else can companies get through to us?

By managing their brand online. Here’s why:

You can reach a niche market. Whether you’re promoting a new product or a charity cause, the internet is a wonderful place to find your audience. Facebook groups. Twitter lists. Forums. You can find people who would be interested in your product/cause. These people are already your audience. You need to cater to this audience.

Quick example: I work for XYZ charity and want to raise money for animal rights. I’ll set up a Twitter account. I’ll talk to people. Expand my network. Gain followers and support for my campaign. Dedicated followers will help me push my campaign. I’ll also target humanitarians and animal lovers online. I’ll find local meetings. I’ll organize fundraising events over social media. Who will be listening to my campaign? My audience. Who will be promoting my campaign? My audience.

Not everyone will donate. But my chances are better if my efforts are relevant to your interests.

What do you think of street campaigns?

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