Bring back the publicity stunt

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I don’t know a dealer who hasn’t had to slash his ad budget these days. But that doesn’t necessarily mean disappearing from sight. For a small, sometimes zero investment, dealers can bring back a classic way of grabbing people’s attention – the good old publicity stunt!

Sure it’s an old PR man’s tool, first used decades ago by Hollywood to push movies and stars. But these days, even some big names are doing publicity stunts and for good reason. Besides reduced ad money available, advertising is no longer as simple as the days when a 30-second spot on three network TV channels would blanket a market. Today, consumers get their information from a myriad of sources. Moreover, they share it with each other via exploding social networks on the Internet. Now, it’s give them a reason to talk about you - and they will.

It’s probably best to do a stunt(s) that ties directly to the dealership’s prime business (boat sales, dockage, special services, etc.) but clever, off-the-wall ideas shouldn’t be ignored. For example, KFC recently did a stunt in Louisville, Ky. There, people were invited to call in the location of a pothole and KFC would send a private contractor to fix it. Then, they would spray paint a temporary KFC Logo and “Refreshed by KFC” on the patch. Stupid and irrelevant? Perhaps. It had nothing to do with chicken . . . but it got national publicity worth millions.

There are many more examples. How about golf retailer Goldsmith who offered full money back to anyone who bought any of three Taylor-Made drivers if Sergio Garcia (who is sponsored by Taylor-Made) won the Masters. The odds of Garcia winning were posted at 15-1, according to VegasInsider.com. He didn’t win (finished 38th), but Goldsmith got great publicity leading up to the Masters.

Other notable stunts: CiCi’s Pizza scattered 1 million specially marked coins on sidewalks, each worth free items; Denny’s gave away free breakfasts (twice) and Charmin used an Apple i-Phone system to find the nearest bathroom using GPS!

Over the top? Sure, no dealer can patch a bunch of potholes. But does it spur ideas? If you’re a ski boat dealer, for example, how about dressing up someone as Uncle Sam and skiing him for the local newspaper and TV for the July 4th holiday. Or, set a Guinness World Record for, say, the longest a skier can go backward, barefoot!

How about a fishing marathon for charity? Or, a new record for two people playing chess under water. How about a Kiss My Canoe contest – the last man standing gets the canoe. Or, create a giant American flag on the water using rolls of vinyl. Organize a Crazy Craft Parade or a water-borne Doo Dah Day (Google it, you’ll laugh.)

Well, you get the idea so gather your staff and create some more.

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