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The Power of the Golden Ticket

Many of our clients have been asking us about new and affordable ways of continuing to effectively brand their businesses and projects without breaking the bank during these difficult economic times. As the old saying goes, out of crisis comes opportunity, and we here at Branding Ideas think there’s a unique opportunity to do what we’ve always strove to do, brand on a budget, while at the same time building your clientele in both size and loyalty. While the news coming out of Washington and Wall Street hasn’t exactly been encouraging in recent weeks, the fact is that most people are still working, still making money, and still relatively willing to spend it if the price is right. Money hasn’t simply evaporated; people are just hanging onto it. The trick is to find new ways of getting new customers to make the first step through the proverbial door and existing customers to feel more confident in your product, project or business.

On a recent episode of NBC’s sitcom The Office, Steve Carrell is inspired by the golden ticket promotion from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and sticks five 10%-off-for-a-year coupons in boxes being shipping to clients. All five boxes accidentally get shipped to the company’s biggest client, which is potentially a financial disaster until the client, so grateful for the discount, signs on exclusively with the company. Now, we’re not suggesting you attempt something that risky, but some companies (like Aveda, Baskin Robbins, Ponderosa, California’s Pizza Kitchen, Children’s Place and Toys ‘R Us) are offering gift coupons and free products to customers who join or are already a part of special club. Part of Dairy Queen’s Blizzard Fan Club? Get a freebee on your next visit! It’s a tried-and-true promotional technique and we think it’s one that could work wonders right now. You can create your own program using custom printed membership cards with your own company branding or consider thanking your clients with discount rewards cards for things like music downloads, DVDs, restaurant discounts. Not only will you be spreading some good will, but a casual customer could become a lifetime one—and when the economy starts to turn around, that could be a very golden thing.

Thinking Outside the Train

If you’ve ever taken the shuttle train from Times Square to Grand Central Station in New York City, you’ve undoubtedly encountered one of those ads that cover every inch of the inside of the train, from the ceiling to the seats to the floor. It’s striking, effective and inescapable. Well, the MTA is going to new lengths to sell ad space and marketing execs are thinking outside the box (or train) in trying to find new ways to reach potential customers. The other night, while waiting for the subway, a train went whizzing by with banner advertisements plastered onto the exterior of each car.

In this economy, you’d think that there would be plenty of ad space on subway platform walls or inside the train, or that companies would cut their advertising budgets significantly. But maybe the MTA is on to something: By offering new and unique avenues to reach consumers, they’re making it more appealing for advertisers while increasing their own revenue (a good thing for New York subway riders who don’t want to see another obscene fare-hike). A recent Forbes piece is even urging companies not to give into the temptation to skimp on their ad budgets during these troubled economic times because that could allow for competitors to make inroads; instead, they say, that “the key is to craft messages that reflect the times and describe how their product or service benefits the consumer.”

The risk, of course, is that the kind of visual assault that the MTA is offering could backfire. Devising clever ways of reaching consumers is almost always a good thing, but people don’t like being force-fed. An article in Advertising Age last week pointed to consumers who are taking action against ubiquitous advertising, like Toyota’s “Saved by Zero” television commercial, which ran almost on a loop nationally and which inspired a Facebook group in an effort to stop it. In a troubled economy, and in branding in general, balance is key.