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AMiable Solution #284: Can You Connect the Dots?



Feeling pressured to “think outside of the box” in your marketing? Management has used this strategy since the 1970s, when psychologist J.P. Guilford conducted his now-famous study on creativity, the nine-dot puzzle, which required research subjects to connect all nine dots using just four straight lines without lifting their pencils from the page. The answer, of course, was to extend the lines outside of the imaginary box that the dots resided in.

Is “thinking outside the box” always a good move?

For the makers of Poo-Pourri, the answer is yes.

The product, which “virtually eliminates bathroom odors” with its blend of essential oils, stepped out of the board room and into the bathroom with its marketing. And it worked. As Ritika Puri, a content strategist and business and tech blogger, put it in her February 3, 2014, article, “5 Weird, Unusual, and Awkward Marketing Campaigns that Worked,” “Who cares if your product is mundane, boring, or awkward? Make it funny. Take a hilarious joke, amplify it, and push it over the ledge. Some audiences will be repulsed, but the ones who love what you do? They’ll be your supporters for life.”

Promoters of the cartoon Aqua Teen Hunger Force weren’t so lucky, however. In 2007, hoping to create interest in its animated series, Turner Broadcasting System’s Cartoon Network commissioned “backpack-sized devices with wires on the back and lights on the front capable of displaying a moving picture image.” Mistaken for bombs, these devices—which were placed all around Boston—created a scare that had the Boston police’s bomb squad on full alert, caused the city to block boat traffic from Boston Harbor, and had the U.S. Northern Command of the Pentagon, located in Colorado Springs, monitoring the threat.

The lesson? Make sure you think all new ventures through thoroughly.

If you’re looking to spice up your marketing, do your research, take a new perspective on a standard campaign, and take a chance. After all, the ones who take risks are the ones who differentiate themselves, for better or for worse.


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