Shoot down ideas at your own peril!

The author believes ideation in outlier marketing is about being bold when proposing an idea and keeping the process going despite there being uncontrollable consequences during execution

PRAVIN SHEKAR
PRAVIN SHEKAR

What are the three stages of an idea, any idea, especially those that aim to disrupt?

Stage one: That is such a horrible idea. Ridiculous!

Stage two: Hmmm, that probably is a good idea, but it will never work. Or it will never work HERE.

Stage three: When the idea has been given shape and has gained prominence (either fame or notoriety); “I ALWAYS knew it was a good idea. In fact, I was talking about it earlier as well.”

Ideating about Outlier marketing tactics takes the same three stages but the smart CEO jump starts with ideation, planning, and action. Let’s look at two examples.

How do you sell MUD?

Yes, MUD. Will people buy mud to slather themselves with it? Yes, it is medicinal but mud-slathering is an acquired taste.

How does one go about it? This was the quandary that the folks from Boryeong had to solve. And solve they did, about 20 years ago, One (maybe more) outlier marketer in this small town of South Korea came up with the idea of a MUD festival; one where their target segment, consumers, were invited to participate in a few days of fun. Bringing their childhood back to life, albeit briefly. The Boryeong Mud Festival was born. A festival that involves a lot of games, action and fun; all involving mud: dark brown, slushy, slithery MUD. Slides, pillow fights, team games, mud football – even a marathon run on mud flats. People came in hordes, as individuals and family and friend groups.

With each passing year, this festival grew in popularity and the 19th festival concluded recently. A square was transformed as the main game area, all around this mud square were shops selling products made out of mud; cosmetics, shampoos, face masks. And they sold a lot!

A festival where people slather themselves in mud and lie around in it, all day long… Who would have thought about it, expect an outlier marketer, who also had the perseverance to see the idea through into action – and direct result?

Whacko ideas can also be good, have merit. It is worth a pilot. It’s up to you to convince those internal, and external.

Let’s look at another example where this convincing was required.

NUNS & ROSES

A case of a Chennai-based enterprise software firm, Chargebee: In conversation with the cofounder, Krish Subramanian.

Krish, you recently ran a very specific Outlier Marketing tactic. Tell us more about it. What exactly did you do – and where?

Krish: The SaaStr Annual that takes place every year in San Francisco, US is a great place for SaaS businesses to network and meet new prospects. It’s also a place where it’s not very easy to get noticed. Especially for a product like ours which isn’t a ‘fun’ product, per se, and predominantly functions in the background.

Prior to the event, our team came up with the idea of the ten commandments of SaaS. The original idea was to print these out on a small card with our logo / twitter handle on the back and hand them out to people attending the event. As the day for the event approached, we decided to get bold and make a splash. Our team came up with the idea of Nuns carrying a tablet with the ten commandments of SaaS.

We had interns pose as Nuns, carrying the tablets and distributing the SaaS commandments. We played around with the idea of Before Chargebee (BC) and After Disruption (AD) for subscription management.

We were inspired by Mark Benioff’s ‘Behind the Cloud’, so we ensured that the campaign was as authentic as possible, including how the Sisters dressed up, and how they represented our product (without being too pushy).

Opposition from within and outside?

Krish: Internally, this type of guerrilla marketing was a first for us. We were very skeptical initially, but once we ironed out the details of our campaign, we decided to just act, and worry about the consequences later.

Chargebee is a serious product but we are a fun company. We wanted to show the fun side of a serious product outside, but without hurting sentiments of people. We were torn between being traditional in our approach, so as to not risk affecting brand Chargebee, or making a huge and bold impact so people recognized and remembered us.

I think, being an Indian company building a global product, we needed to be conscious and aware of what we were going to attempt, from the cultural standpoint as well.

So, there was quite some convincing needed for executing this exercise.

External issues/Uncontrollables: The first obstacle came just as we started our campaign. As we were not sponsoring any of the events at SaaStr, the organizers politely and rightfully requested that we do not distribute any marketing material around and outside the conference premise.

So, we moved out and distributed the cards outside the building, which happened to be a “Masonic building”, opposite to a huge church. We were told that the Sisters could just stand, as long as they were not distributing anything.


About the author: Pravin is a startup specialist, parallel entrepreneur and a raconteur and likes to call himself Pravin “Shameless” Shekar. He can be reached at Pravin@krea.in; www.pravinshekar.com