Being bombarded by advertisements can be a real downer. Sometimes I think I’d rather look at a large blank square in the sky than an actual billboard (I would also settle for the tree line, but I think that’s asking a bit much). That’s why when a smart advertising campaign surfaces, it really sticks. It comes up in later conversations and you share it with others, confident that they’ll get the same satisfaction from it that you experienced.
I’m a sucker for a good marketing gimmick. The key to a really great gimmick is taking something familiar and giving it a twist. Those totally weird, “I cannot believe this is real life,” outside-the-box ideas give freshness and life to the concept of marketing. One of my all-time favorites is the piano key subway stairs that Volkswagen sponsored as part of their initiative, “The Fun Theory.” Another is the detergent packet in the shape of a ketchup stain that Vantage detergent introduced to add some humor and fun absurdity to its product.
Both of these examples shed new light on otherwise mundane ideas. Walking up stairs becomes an interactive game that rewards you for getting from point A to point B without the help of an escalator (one point for humanity, look at us go!). And the archetype detergent ad, which often consists of stark white, billowy clothing air-drying on a clothesline in the countryside, is flipped on its head, as the stain-shaped detergent packet relates, “Here’s a solution to ketchup stains in a ketchup stain-shaped packet. Laugh it up.” There is something innately clever about these ideas that make you smile and, moreover, make you think.
Wrigley recently ran a promotion that elicited this reaction in me. Wrigley identified a strange but ubiquitous behavior, which I’ve dubbed the “take a ticket from a parking garage ticket dispenser and hold it between your lips” move. They then managed to merge it with their product, Extra Professional gum. A strange union, for sure – what possible overlap exists between parking tickets and gum chewage?
Wrigley determined that there was a chance to capitalize on the ticket-dispenser-mouth move by giving the consumer a literal taste of their gum. They applied a thin strip of mint flavor to the parking ticket so that drivers got an unexpected sample of Wrigley’s Extra. The video below shows some real-life consumers’ reactions to their mint-blasted parking tickets.
Introducing surprise to an everyday behavior is what makes promotions like this so likeable. It’s nothing over-the-top awesome or obnoxiously in-your-face; it’s just enough to make you do a double-mint. Sorry, double take.
Mint parking tickets from Art Directors Club of Europe