A Tale of Marketing Promotion in Three Acts

Today we have a story of a group of little guys beating the big guy, an example of an entrepreneur seizing an opportunity, and a marketing lesson all tied up in the same tale.

Act 1:

The backstory begins obliquely in December of 1944. General Maxwell Taylor was absent from the 101st Airborne Division at the time the German Army laid siege to Bastogne. General Taylor’s diplomatic and language skills were required in a secret mission to Rome to coordinate maneuvers with Italian forces.

General Anthony McAuliffe was left as acting Commander when the German XLVIIth Armored Corps surrounded the American forces. General Heinrich von Luettwitz demanded McAuliffe surrender.

McAuliffe sent back his famous one word reply: “NUTS!” A Colonel Harper, who delivered the typed response to the German delegation had to explain the meaning of the word to the Germans. McAuliffe’s forces were able to hold off the siege until the 4th Armored Division arrived to provide reinforcement.

Act 2:

Network television offers programming to attract viewers, then offers access to the viewers to advertisers for cash, which pays the production costs of the programming (and with the right combination of skill and luck, a profit for the shareholders).

When the network execs determine that a program isn’t garnering the audience they expected, it may be moved to a different day or time. When they determine that they can’t make a profit on the show, they cancel it.

And that’s it.

Or is it.

  • When CBS cancelled Cagney and Lacey in 1983, producer Barney Rosenzweig encouraged fans of the show to start a letter-writing campaign. CBS brought it back, and the show went on to win 14 Emmy’s.
  • Designing Women did respectably well on Monday nights when it launched in 1986. CBS moved the show several times, finally to Sunday night, where it was dismally received. A viewer campaign saved it from cancellation. CBS returned it to Monday night, where it consistently stayed in the top 20.
  • Touched by an Angel was cancelled during its first season in 1994. Fans staged a letter-writing campaign. CBS brought it back. The show ran for eight more seasons.
  • And this year, Jericho became the most recent CBS cancellation, followed by a grassroots campaign to save the series. In its final episode before being cancelled, the enemy offered to let one of the main characters surrender. Quoting General Taylor’s reply to the German army, the character said “Nuts!”

    But this time, it wasn’t a letter-writing campaign that was organized to bring the show back.

    Act 3:

    This time an on-line petition gathered together the “signatures” of thousands of fans. CBS wasn’t impressed. Then, one of the fans contacted Nuts Online, and asked them to Nuts Online offered to take small orders ($5) and package them into larger shipments to be delivered to CBS in New York and Los Angeles.

    After 40,000 pounds of nuts were delivered to CBS, the company relented and purchased seven more episodes for a second season.

    Epilog:

    As you might imagine, the story got a lot of coverage, and each time Nuts Online was mentioned. I suspect we can agree that this quick-thinking entrepreneur received millions of dollars of free publicity for his company.

    He was willing to accept minimal or no profit from this promotion, which made it affordable for nearly every fan to participate.

    However, Braverman will probably make a significant follow up profit from the huge opt-in mailing list he’s compiled.

    Can you apply Braverman’s example to your business?

    Can you support a worthy cause? Will you send press releases and interviews? Are you willing to compile a mailing list and follow up after the promotion, consider joint ventures, and cross marketing opportunities?

    Congratulations. You may be on your way to the kind of publicity that makes some companies look “lucky.”

    Now, start looking for your promotional tie-in.


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