leadership dot #2404: punt

I wrote last week about Goose Island’s ingenious plan to offer free beer for a year to any of the “armchair kickers” who could make a 43-yard field goal – the distance that the Bears’ kicker missed in the playoff game.

They put this stunt together on the fly – and it had a major kink in it: giving away free beer in Illinois is illegal. So, they punted that plan and offered a free ticket to any NFL game instead. Not as glamorous, but still a nice prize.

No one won it.

None of the 100 participants could make the kick, although some did provide some entertaining flubs in the process. As expected, the promotion drew a crowd well beyond the participants, garnered extensive news coverage, and probably made a few people think twice about how difficult the kick really was (all without the defense rushing at you and blocking it with their hand — the NFL actually ruled the Bears kick as a block, not a miss).

In addition to silencing 100 of Cody Parkey’s critics, Goose Island also donated $20,000 to the Bears kicker’s favorite charity. Nice gesture!

All in all, the field kick promotion was timely, creative and a great way to tap into Goose Island’s target market. Follow their example and jump on spontaneous branding opportunities that occur. Even if you have to punt and make a few modifications along the way, you still score big in the end.

leadership dot #2403: surly

If your signature beer is a dark stout, why not carry the darkness theme throughout your whole company? Surly Brewery in Minneapolis has done just that and modeled their whole organization along with a brusque theme.

No light fluffiness or pumpkin spice here: their beers have names like  Overrated, Furious, Todd the Axe Man, Fiery Hell, Cynic, Sour and Dumpster Fire. Their corporate volunteerism is called “Give a Damn”. Their website is in dark colors and sassy language.

And it’s working for them. They produce over 29 million pints/year. Their city-block-sized Beer Hall and pizza gardens are overflowing. The gift store is a tourist attraction in itself.

Not all messaging or themes need to be full of unicorns and rainbows. Use Surly’s darkness as an example of how authenticity in your branding can shine the light on your products.

leadership dot #2399: eternal glory

It is one thing to have a great idea and another thing to be nimble enough in order to act on it. Goose Island Beer gets kudos for having both.

Like other fans in the Windy City, the Chicago-based microbrewery lamented the Bears’ playoff loss on a missed field goal, but they stopped short of blaming the team. Instead, they invited “armchair kickers” – those who thought they could have made the field goal – to come to the brewery this weekend and give it a try.

Not only is the plan ingenious, but so was the way they promoted it on social media:

 “A lot of armchair kickers on here [Twitter] are saying that they could hit that field goal, which we find DOUBTFUL. You’re gonna sit there on your throne of potato chips and vape pens and criticize this dude’s athleticism? GET REAL.”

“So you know what we’re going to do? Build a dang field goal post in the middle of the street outside of our brewery, and all you pro athletes can come out and prove us wrong…Hit the 43 yard field goal and you’ll win beer for a year and eternal glory.”

Obviously, no one knew that the Bears game would pivot on a final field goal attempt so none of this was planned in advance. Yet, within 24 hours, Goose Island had crafted Tweets that spoke the language of its target audience, developed a crazy publicity stunt that is sure to draw crowds and attention to its brewery, and shared it all with the world.

Maybe the final kick in the game was a miss, but the response of Goose Island is a definite score. Is your marketing team as fluid and audience-aware as the brewery? “Eternal glory” awaits to those who are.

Thanks, Mike!

leadership dot #2398: modifications

I took note when the person in front of me in the checkout line bought a package of Carrot Cake Oreos. They sound delicious, but I believe that what prompted her to buy them was more of a focus on the “Oreo” portion of the equation rather than just the “carrot cake” flavor. It was a calculated risk for her that the Oreo product would be of a certain quality and consistency so she was secure in taking a chance that the flavor would be good.

Brand extensions are happening all around us as consumers are more willing to venture into new products when there is some known level of what they are getting. Peter Sims called this “Little Bets” in his book by the same name – taking small risks to create change and move things forward. We make little bets when we buy a new flavor of an established product – whether Oreos, M&Ms, English Muffins, lattes or cereals – all increasing sales in a way that may not occur if packaged under an entirely new and unfamiliar name.

Change is often hard for people. Temper your change and increase its acceptance by anchoring it to something that Is known. Can you make the equivalent to a “flavor adjustment” to one of your programs or services? How can you modify a product to keep its essence but make some aspect about it different? By focusing on what is the same, you’ll make it much easier for people to experiment with the newness and become comfortable with making a switch.


leadership dot #2396: conspiracy

Denver International Airport has been the subject of conspiracy theories since its opening. The monolith in the middle of the plains seems to attract all kinds of rumors – that there are gargoyles, underground bunkers, demonized statues or headquarters for a new world order.

Rather than become indignant about the falsehoods, the airport communications team opted to embrace the mystery and incorporate it into part of its branding. During recent airport construction, the plywood barricades asked: “New construction? Or new conspiracy?” and Construction? Or Cover Up?”. (There are more examples in this clever marketing campaign here.)

If people are talking about your organization, think about how you react. Does tongue-in-cheek take you further than trying to refute the rumor with facts? Maybe you can take a lesson from Denver and play along.

Thanks, Tricia!



leadership dot #2379: wrapped

Last Christmas, I thwarted my nephew’s plans to only use gift bags and instead I wrapped all of his presents as he watched in amazement at how I effortlessly measured the paper and crinkled the ribbon. We disguised some of the obvious gifts but there was really nothing special about my tasks even though he was as impressed as if I had done sleight of hand magic.

This year, I have noticed how – even though it is so close to Christmas – the stores are still stocked full of wrapping paper rolls. I fear that wrapping of gifts is becoming a lost art, just as the sending of handwritten cards has given way to photo cards or no cards at all and the choosing of personal presents is increasingly being replaced with the exchange of gift cards.

Gift bags can be beautiful but pulling something out of a bag is not nearly the experience of unwrapping a present whereas wrapped gifts can become works of art in and of themselves (as this picture attests). A circle of gift bags under the tree does not have the same nostalgia or cache as a stack of presents all festively decorated and lovingly wrapped.

Use the packaging of gifts as an analogy for the service your organization provides. Are you offering the basics (aka a gift bag), are you taking an extra step to wrap the present tied with a bow or are you going above and beyond to wow your customers with your presentation? As others gravitate toward quick and easy, a little extra attention on your part can unwrap unseen opportunities for your organization’s image.

leadership dot #2375: power pack

On Christmas morning, it is inevitable that something requires batteries. And what fun is that toy/thermometer/walkie talkie if you are unable to play with it on the spot?!

To help families be prepared for holiday mornings, birthday parties or just general readiness, Duracell has come up with an ingenious method of packaging. Instead of selling individual size batteries, the company now offers a multi-pack that comes with AA, AAA, C, D and 9-volt batteries packaged together. With one purchase, you can be prepared for all those unexpected battery needs. I wonder why it has taken so long for the company to sell their product in this grouping.

What can your organization do to make its product offering more convenient for your customers? Instead of selling things piecemeal, consider how you can combine them into a package or series to make it more efficient for everyone.