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Marketing wisdom from a guy at Fisherman’s Wharf

posted on: Monday, December 3rd, 2012

One morning just prior to the most recent presidential election, I was sitting in front of my computer trying to come up with something pithy to open a “storytelling” workshop I was leading.  Intel’s new product incubator team had hired me to help them package and sell their cool new ideas.

I was drawing a blank on my opening, so I took a walk toward Fisherman’s Wharf for inspiration (don’t ask me why I walked toward the wharf on a Saturday).

Taking a walk in the wharf on the weekend is quite a sight.  It’s sort of like Grand Central Station meets Circes de Soleil meets the bar in Star Wars.   There are jugglers, mimes painted silver, singers that clearly couldn’t make it on The Voice and a variety of other folks vying for the attention of tourists with stray dollars.

As I walked on, I was still thinking about my need for a presentation opening and was somewhat oblivious to the spectacle going on around me.  Just when I was starting to lose hope, this nice middle-aged tourist lady starting laughing and putting money into the hat of a homeless guy who had a sign with a very simple message…His sign simply said:

“Give me money or I’ll vote for Romney”

Hey, in just eight words this guy had pulled off something that eludes so many marketers– he had created a message that was simple, focused on one idea, provocative and had a strong call to action.  And, talk about targeting—talking to Obama voters in the Country’s most liberal is reasonably savvy (particularly for a guy who sleeps on the side walk).

I don’t know how much money he collected that day, but my guess is a hell of a lot more than the guy next to him with the sign that read, “looking for a down payment for my next beer.”

So, I opened my presentation off with this story and the Intel guys seemed to like it.  The notion of being brave enough to craft a really simple, compelling, targeted concept is probably a good lesson for all of us.  Thanks for the wisdom from the guy at Fisherman’s Wharf.

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