The Sharp Edge Of Green Marketing
"Whoa! What's that?" she asked.
Then from around the corner, a squat, blue, ramshackle cube van appeared. It was The Knife Guy, ringing his bell as he slowly crept around our suburban streets seeking sharpening customers. The van looked like a castaway milk truck -- with its sliding driver's door ajar and the box cab festooned with dangly oversized scissors and imposing carving implements. The bell rang repeatedly -- ding-ding, ding-ding -- in a repetitive series that could easily have been mistaken for a one-room schoolhouse bell (if you're old enough to remember those). As we passed The Knife Guy, I noticed that the sound was actually coming not from the large brass bell hanging at the driver's window, but from a loud speaker strapped to the roof. There must be a by-law prohibiting dinging and driving.
"It's a guy who sharpens knives in the street," I answered.
I knew who he was because he had passed our house just a few days earlier. At that time the bell attracted me (and other neighbors) to our front steps to see what was going on. Was it an ice cream truck? A parade? A funeral? I noticed that although he attracted an audience, people were not seeking his business. Honestly, at that time it didn't occur to me to run to the cutlery drawer and dash out into the street in hot pursuit of a better edge. But, we did all notice.
"Who does that?" my wife asked after a moment of silence as we continued along our commute.
Later, I actually found myself hoping he would come back to our street. I had seen him twice now. I understood what he was doing. The Knife Guy had made a strong, and positive, impression on me. I was ready to buy. My wife, it seemed, was one experience (exposure to The Knife Guy) behind me on the road to becoming an advocate for refined slicing.
Why did he grab my attention? There is something very powerful about simplicity and familiarity. Sometimes the best way to reach people is to go where they live. By providing an experience that is unique, multi-faceted and has an emotional appeal, a connection is made that is hard to sever. Maybe The Knife Guy is the front for an international mega-corporation; but I don't care. He seems local (accessible), relevant and personal.
The strongest connection to a sustainable product or service can be developed through a carefully planned series of encounters (exposures), especially when these are delivered locally by a credible source and in a safe and familiar setting.
I may be tempted to sharpen my cutting knife because someone plays a bell that reminds me of Sunday. Would this work in other neighborhoods? Maybe. Maybe not. These kinds of symbols and triggers do exist for every community; we just need to discover them, be open to them and allow our broad-based green marketing programs to incorporate them. It is possible to have a state-wide marketing goal that has unique local characteristics. In fact, these days, it is actually critical.
It seems lately that all too often the marketing world is looking for the next killer app. I think The Knife Guy actually has it figured out.