(Image courtesy marketing expert Rose Freeland.)
Today, I got another submission for a free ad that was basically just the grid’s name. And I regularly talk to grid owners who try to tell me that their grid is special because of its community, and to attract residents they offer low-cost land and free user accounts.
Having a name, low land costs, free user accounts and a “community” does not make a grid special. Every grid out there has those things, even if the “community” is just one guy with a smile on his face.
Few grids have any memorable characteristics.
Think of Domino’s and you think of the 30-minute delivery guarantee. Think of Kool-Aid, and you probably immediately remember that giant pitcher crashing through the wall. If you think of Apple, you probably think of their stylish designs and usability. If you think of Activia yogurt, you might think of Jamie Lee Curtis. Then there was the Verizon “can you hear me now” guy — well, that didn’t go as expected.
Marketing messages don’t even have to make a lot of sense. What does “the real thing” even mean? “We’re number two, so we try harder.” So what? Trying isn’t the same as actually doing.
Companies that are successful in their marketing find a message that resonates, then double-down on it.
I’m not arguing that marketing trumps the actual product. Okay, sometimes it does, but, on average, it’s going to cost a lot more to market a sub-par product, and it’s going to be an uphill battle all the way.
Before investing significant amounts into a branding campaign, make sure the underlying product or service is worthy of that effort. Read more here: How to build trust for your OpenSim product or service.
Once you’ve got that, here are some ideas that might work for your grid.
1. Spokesperson or spokes-avatar
You can build your marketing around a well-known celebrity, or someone who is relatively unknown but interesting or quirky or representative of your grid’s values or features. Or you can create a mascot from scratch.
Once you find someone or something that clicks with potential customers, leverage them in advertising, events, blogs and social media posts, press releases, promotional images and videos, and contests.
Spokespeople — and spokes-avatars — can be temperamental. They can get involved in scandals, switch sides and join your competition, demand huge salary increases if they get popular, or just go away one day and never come back.
Mascots, however, are a different story. You create the mascot from scratch, and you can do whatever you want with their likeness. And if you need a mascot to appear somewhere in person, you can get almost anyone to dress up as them.
Plus, when hiring spokespeople, you have to choose from the people who are already available. With a mascot, you’re only limited by your imagination.
And you can still use them in all the same places you would a spokesperson — ads, press releases, events, and so on. The only difference is that, unlike a spokesperson, a mascot isn’t someone you would send out to speak on behalf of your company.
Ronald McDonald can go out and hand out ice cream cones, but you wouldn’t expect him to talk about the company’s quarterly earnings report.
But a spokesperson, especially one already known as an expert or influencer, can communicate complicated messages on behalf of your grid.
3. Sell the sizzle
When I think of Coke, I think of the soda can being popped open, and that sound it makes when it fizzes. When I think of Burger King, I think of those burgers being flame grilled. I can almost taste them. It makes my mouth water, and I don’t even like burgers. When I think of Baywatch I think of those lifeguards running across the beach.
Is there anything about your grid that can have that same kind of visceral effect?
Maybe there’s a feeling you get when sailing your boat across a virtual sea. Or the joy of bashing in the head of your enemy. Maybe it’s a sunrise over your personal tropical island. Or a sexy avatar dancing in your club.
4. A feel-good story
Some companies are able to leverage their humble beginnings and turn them into an epic origin story. KFC’s Colonel Sanders, for example.
Or the story of Facebook being launched from a college dorm room, or Apple starting out in a garage.
Is there anything interesting, or compelling, or unusual, or funny, or relatable about how your grid got its start?
It can even be embarrassing. Many companies have origin stories where they originally were trying to do something else, or where the founders failed publicly at previous ventures. Laugh at yourself first, and your customers will sympathize.
5. Special offers
Some companies stand out by offering good deals. They might be the cheapest, or offer two pizzas for the price of one. My local supermarket regularly offers buy-one-get-two-free sales. I used to fall for it, until I noticed that all their other prices were super high, and even the super sale prices were not that much lower than other stores’ regular prices.
The offers don’t have to be discounts.
Publishers Clearinghouse sells magazine subscriptions by running a free sweepstakes. I still remember the commercials with people showing up at the door with giant checks.
McDonald’s runs a Monopoly game every year.
AviWorlds is known for offering free regions all the time. And then shutting down unexpectedly before people have time to enjoy them, but still.
Sometimes, a company becomes known for something embarrassing. Like, say, United dragging a passenger off a plane. With some imagination, and some hard, it could turn into a positive. Tylenol is the poster child for this. Seven people died eating poisoned medicine in the 1980s, and the killer was never caught. The company could have been wiped out by this, but instead responded very effectively, and returned to being the top-selling brand. When I think of Tylenol, I think of their slogan, “the brand hospitals trust most,” and it doesn’t sound ironic because of the work the company put into rebuilding that trust. More recently, Martha Stewart’s brand recovered from her actually going
(Image courtesy marketing expert Rose Freeland.)