You’ve seen it. The bikini-clad woman draped over the car at the auto shows. The half-dressed ladies displaying the latest gadgets at the big electronic shows. The buxom girls in short skirts chatting up the boys at the trade show or conference du jour. Many marketers would say…”Pathetic! My brand would never stoop so low!”
I put babes in videos and babes in a trade show booth and I don’t regret it for one minute.
Great, now we’ve got that over with, let me explain.
There are times in the life of a brand where you’ve gotta get scrappy. You know – no budget, no one knows who the heck you are, you have to spell your company’s name s l o w l y and fight the uphill battle of spending on brand awareness versus spending on lead gen/conversion. In this scenario, most marketers are willing to do one of two things.
Thing One: Wait it out. Use the traditional means of marketing, advertising, PR and whatever other tools they have in that fancy bag of tricks. Then, cross their fingers that the marketing programs will eventually work and people will start to know the brand and buy something.
Thing Two: Take a risk. This is where I add the “don’t try this at home” disclaimer as this isn’t for everyone. Taking a risk is just that – a calculated bet that the aggressive programs you run will leapfrog the wait it out approach. It does not always happen this way. In my case it did and here’s why.
The risk I took was to feature beautiful women in a variety of settings for a marketing campaign before we launched our product. I took the Take A Risk approach, if you didn’t catch that. My friends and marketing cohorts said, “How can you exploit women like that? You’re a chick?!” But, I am a Marketing Chick and maniacally focused on programs that will grow our business. And sometimes you need to pull out all the stops to make it happen. My company was in a cluttered space – big big companies with deep deep pockets all around us gobbling up every eyeball I so desperately tried to capture. I couldn’t buy enough advertising to tell our story or enough paid programs to make a difference. Our target audience was male and, let’s face it, guys like hot chicks. Hey, even I appreciate hot chicks. I thought that because our brand was different than all the other muckety mucks with the deep pockets, we should do something they would never do – use hot chicks to promote our brand. Different.
The critics might say, what does some randomly cast hot chick know about your product? The answer: nothing. But that’s not the point. I recently read an article by Christine Crandell about the ROI of booth babes and it spurred me to write this post. I agree with Christine’s position that dressing your product in a french maid’s outfit and sending it off to ‘sell’ is rather outrageous and, in my opinion, tasteless and a waste of marketing dollars. But, I do think that there’s a time and place for some brand sauce – you know a way to shake things up a bit, give the potential buyer something unexpected and do it in a tasteful way. The ‘butt-shaker’ videos, as they have been coined, did exactly what I needed them to do. They created a buzz. They created an aspiration for our potential customer (99.9% male) to achieve. They explained the product in a simple way and with a clever, unexpected hook. They caused a bit of a commotion that resulted in over a half a million views on You Tube for just one of the videos in the series. They were conceived with a strategy, a pithy pitch, a catchy hook, a top-notch video production crew and stellar execution. The result was a home run in breaking through the clutter and appealing to our audience. The video series increased leads, brand name recognition and credibility – believe it or not, customers loved that we were willing to do something different.
Now, the booth babes. So, we go to Vegas and it’s our ‘break-out’ show. I put two lovely girls – twins in fact – in jeans and a custom-made tank top. No boobs hanging out. No glitter bikinis. Fun yet tasteful. They knew enough about the product to attract peoples’ attention and did an excellent job mingling with our booth traffic.
Would I do it now: no.
Why? It played a very particular role for a particular time in our brand’s evolution. I go to these shows every few months and see the same companies with the same shtick. Booth babes and give aways and I think…really? Is that all you’ve got?
Part of being a good marketer is transforming your brand little by little. Innovating. Creating. Differentiating. The same old same old is too predictable. People like being surprised and delighted. I believe that brands and babes can live together in harmony if, and only if, they serve a very specific purpose. I also believe that it gets played out fast, so if that’s all you’ve got in your bag of tricks, you better stop at the trick store for some new ideas.