I've long been impressed with the simple yet effective marketing employed by BIG B COMICS in Hamilton. Yes, they have their email newsletter, website and all kinds of other great offers for customers -- among them, friendly, helpful and knowledgeable staff who are enthusiastic and passionate about what they sell (yes, that simple yet critical sweet spot offered by many an independent retailer)
But the marketing I'm talking about, and the one I'm most often exposed to, are the "traditional" or "old fashioned" statements they offer on their road-side sign with interchangeable vinyl or plastic letters.
The sign is in their parking lot on Upper James in Hamilton just off the Lincoln Alexander Expressway and sees an incredible amount of traffic every day. This means their sign is in front of thousands of eyes every day, for the simple ongoing cost of a bit of labour and thought from a staff member.
And I've yet to see a message on their sign that isn't interesting, thought-provoking or something that actually makes me want to stop in, or tell someone about it.
Here's what their latest sign says: FREE COMIC FOR EVERY A ON REPORT CARD.
I'd been admiring that sign all week and finally had to stop and take a picture of it when I was driving by last Friday. Eight simple words, yet something that has a simple yet effective appeal.
Simple genius in my mind. Sure, they'll likely have had to invest a few hundred dollars of merchandise into the promotion (and I honestly don't know what exactly they're giving away - whether it's slightly older stock, or the student gets to choose from a certain price point) But the fact is it's a simple message that those who did really well in school will be rewarded. Simply bring in your report card and we'll give you a free comic for every A.
Does this Chris Anderson style of FREE work for their business?
Well, let me put it this way. Francine, Alexander and I dropped by BIG B COMICS on Free Comic Book Day (annually the first Saturday in May) and Alexander selected a single free story from the Disney/Pixar TOY STORY universe. I also ended up buying a comic while there, but here's where it gets really cool for the store that participated in this "free comic book day" -- since that first weekend in May, our household spent a little over $150 at BIG B COMICS.
Francine and Alexander returned to BIG B COMICS to buy me a pile of Spider-Man comics and a t-shirt. The three of us returned there to get Alexander some more TOY STORY comics; Alexander and I went back to get him a few THE SUPERHERO SQUAD graphic novels.
So, since May, we've been to the store half a dozen times. In the previous 6 months we didn't stop in, even though we regularly drive past this store. Now, though, both Alexander and I feel the strong pull to want to stop in and check things out every time we go past and see the big Spider-Man face on their road-side sign. (His SK report card doesn't include standard grading, so there was no checking out A's -- although I'm sure it'll be a fun thing to shoot for when he starts Grade One in September)
On top of the money spent at BIG B, I ended up special ordering a bunch of graphic novels from the WALL-E universe through my own store. (I'm a fan of speading the money around amongst as many local retailers as possible) So we ended up spending over $200 on comic-book related merchandise due to a single day designed to promote comic books and reading.
And though I didn't stop in after seeing the "FREE COMIC FOR EVERY A ON REPORT CARD" sign, I did stop to take a picture of it and have shared that info here - chances are my sharing of this info will lead to at least one more person stopping in to check them out.
Their road signs continue to be interesting, provocative and timely. Like the text that appears beside their site logo on the address bar of their website. This morning (after many days of torrential downpours in Hamilton) it reads: "Now that the rain has stopped, stop by to pick up some comics!"
Low cost, and a simple "low tech" message in front of a huge number of eyes. When I worked at Prospero Books on Bank Street in Ottawa many many years ago, I enjoyed putting messages in the Slater Street window for the pedestrian traffic and folks heading through on busses to enjoy. Something, short and cute that gave our store a "character" or something for people to point at and talk about. Did it mean more people came inside? I never really measured it. But chances are, because the message changed each week, people made a point of turning their heads to check out what the new thing said every time they went past. And getting someone's attention, an extremely limited resource, is a very good start.
Are there similar things you can imagine for your own retail space to take advantage of the adjacent traffic flow?