Every year a handful of cities get to host Grand Prix Formula One racing. And, this year it's on in Montreal again. I'm really not into racing, but the city certainly comes alive with a fantastic energy and lots of tourist dollars. While a bunch of folks hit the streets to ogle the many Ferraris that are parked on every street corner - and while 10s of thousands of other folks are just out to soak up the street entertainment- my love affair with the week is to check out the marketing. Apologies to the purists, but primary purpose of events is to market stuff. F-1 is no exception.
One of the things that is really wicked about street marketing is that this is an opportunity for the consumer to have an interaction with the brand and the brand's representatives. Since direct experience is the best way to develop brand associations in the consumer's mind (because of the full sensory experience and personal relevance of the experience), you can take mundane brands and make them more interesting- or pure image brands and endow them with vivid imagery and warm feelings towards the brand. What follows are some of the best street marketing initiatives from downtown Montreal.
Let's start with Gillette. I mean how exciting can a new Fusion ProGlide razor be? Do we really need a razor with 5 blades? For years the single blade served us well. The two blade revolution was cool. After the 4th generation (and 4 blades)adding another blade just seems silly. Well, Gillette put a booth on Crescent Street with some energetic reps and when I was walking by a crowd was watching some random guy all lathered up from chin to scalp, shaving his head with the ProGlide. Like many others, I wanted to join the "shaving on Crescent Street action". Soon, I got my turn and experienced Gillette's (P&Gs) marketing wizardry. I wasn't just sampling the razor, I got to experience an entire Gillette portfolio (shaving cream, ProGlide, and ProSeries Intense Cooling Lotion) ahead of a mirror and sink - with about 50 people watching in a festive atmosphere. Heck, it was the most fun that I ever had shaving. Perhaps most impressive was this: I didn't see a single drop of blood from all the guys shaving. That's impressive. Plus I ended up with one of the closest shaves that I had ever received and even got a few shaving tips in the process.
So what is the brilliance of Gillette's promotion? I count 10 distinct and favorable interactions with the brand: 1 seeing the booth; 2. trial of 3 new products; 3. interacting with the reps; 4. interacting with the other shavers; 5. receiving the take-home sample; 6. walking away with the tingly cool feeling on my face; 7. carrying a Gillette bag around; 8. receiving expert testimonials about me how smooth my face feels; 9. placing the samples in my bathroom; and 10. trying the samples at my own home. The brand prof in me can't give help but give Gillette an A grade.
Diesel is usually positioned as a brand with edge, attitude and quirkiness. This Grand Prix promotion had a softer side and the promotion was much more light-hearted than what you would expect from Diesel. It is pretty hard to go wrong with a BBQ for a children's hospital but the Diesel did drive home its "Be Stupid" position with an old-school dunk tank. You couldn't help but leave Diesel feeling a little fuzzy about that brand. Interestingly enough, Diesel hired marketing students to man their booths - so, if you want, you can have a more in depth discussion on the values of the Diesel brand.
Finally, there ought to be a car company with a serious sponsorship at an event like this and Ford lets you enter the world of race-car escapism for 8.5 seconds or so. In addition to showcasing some of their sporty models, Ford's contest lets you "work in the pit crew" to change an F1 tire. Hey, its raw automotive escapism for those few seconds. Of course, this associates Ford with the testosterone speed and excitement of the F1 event- a perfect fit for a brand whose portfolio is increasingly sporty.