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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Unusual Tactics

Bust of Cas Walker at the Museum of Appalachia...Bust of Cas Walker at the Museum of Appalachia in Norris, Tennessee, USA. Walker was a well-known East Tennessee businessman and politician. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cas Walker:  Promotion by Unusual Tactics 

         When I first moved to Tennessee in 1966, one of the most popular grocery chains in the region was the Cas Walker Stores.  I couldn't help but laugh when I first saw this guy on his television commercials--he was so countrified and sounded like he had hardly any idea what he was doing.  But as I came to learn, Cas Walker was a marketing genius.

            Cas started his first stores in the 1920s during the Great Depression.  Low prices made his stores a favorite of blue collar white and black customers alike.  In order to boost business he resorted to unusual tactics to attract attention.

            In one of his most famous stunts he threw live fryer chickens from the roof of his store.  Whoever caught a chicken got to keep it.  When he saw how sales boosted on that first day he did this he turned it into a weekly Saturday event.  Sometimes as many as three thousand people showed up to try and catch one of those chickens.  Then afterwards, many of those people would go shopping in the store.  Cas won the hearts of the common folk and turned them into regular customers.

           Later Walker sponsored radio and television shows that featured country music and his own homespun wisdom and commercials done by Cas himself.  He was not some slick talking announcer, but he came across as one of the common folk.  He used the unusual tactic of turning himself into a local celebrity rather than hire attractive smooth talking professionals.

          The Cas Walker show was a East Tennessee television mainstay for many years.  The show introduced artists like Dolly Parton and gave the Everly Brothers a career boost.  Many top name country artists appeared on the Cas Walker Farm and Home Hour.   Some may have thought ol' Cas to be crass and crazy but he had a natural sense of what caught the attention of his customer base.

             Here's a brief clip to give you an idea of what I'm talking about:





Try Something Different

           Like Cas Walker you should determine your customer base and find out what will catch their attention.  Free stuff always gets attention, but don't let it backfire.  The point in giving something away is to get the recipient to like you and to hopefully encourage them to buy another one of your products.  Entice them into the store so they'll see what else you have and pay for the next item.

            There's nothing wrong with a gimmick if it makes sense and attracts attention.  You don't want a gimmick to distract people from what you're doing, but give them enough of a sample to make them curious.  When you see something that is working well for someone else, you might want to try your own version of it.  However if everyone is doing the same thing then maybe you need to come up with your own idea.

            Familiar old tactics can be fine if they're tried and true, but they should not be your only strategy.  Try new ideas.  If those ideas don't work then either find a way to make them work or try something else.   Stay in keeping with who you are and what your product is.  Unusual tactics can attract attention, but they can also become a part of your branding.  Protect your brand so you aren't having to resort to damage control later on down the road.

And now some unusual blogs:

With a name like Clay Baboons you know you're heading into some funky territory.  Stephanie seems to have a thing about clay and funny little beings made out of the stuff.

Maybe a blog about U2 isn't all that unusual, but it's a fitting choice for the letter U.  Join Deena On the Road with U2 and sing along with Bono and the boys.  Lyrics are included.

A blog that is not especially unusual other than being unusually colorful and having some nice poetry is a blog that begins with the letter U.  Anna's Universal Gibberish is a pleasant place to go for a getaway.


         
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26 comments:

  1. Wow, you're actually so right here Lee, Cas Walker seems like an absolute genius, even though what he was doing is unusual it worked because he wasn't false, he was real, great post mate.

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  2. I enjoyed reading as usual Lee.

    Great post.

    Yvonne.

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  3. PETA would be all over him if he was still throwing chickens from the roof!

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  4. Got to go outside of the box!

    More entrepreneurs should know of Cas Walker. He could teach them a few things!

    Not much has changed- the out of the box- unusual tactics can still work today!!!

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  5. Yeamie -- Cas knew how to connect with the public.

    Yvonne -- Thanks.

    Lynn- He was indeed a salesman as well as a politician--which are very similar.

    Alex -- I don't think PETA was around back then, but I don't think that promotional tactic would work now. Besides who wants to take home a live chicken and have cut its head off and pluck the feathers.

    Betty -- The boxes now may be a bit different, but you still have to get outside of them to get noticed.

    Lee

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  6. Very interesting post :) So...how do we throw metaphorical chickens off our internet store roofs?

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

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  7. I second Sarah's question! And where do I get that salve? :-)

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  8. can you imagine Mr Walker throwing chickens off the roof now? OMGoodness, they'd put him in the hoosegow.

    Made me think of the stunt on the TV show WKRP when they threw turkeys out of a helicopter. LOL.

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  9. Thanks for the mention, I really appreciate that. I'm addicted to colour, can't help it lol.
    I think above all you have to be true to yourself and enjoy what you're doing. Throwing chickens off a roof sounds like fun! :)

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  10. Sensible advice, Arlee.
    Innovative is a good word to describe Cas.

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  11. I'm trying to picture a present-day PR guy suggesting that in the monthly meeting. Ha! Thanks for the shout-out. :)

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  12. Great advice, as usual. It was fun learning about him. I bet that he couldn't get away with using real live chickens today; somebody would be on his tail for animal abuse.

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

    Kathy M.

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  13. This was awesome! Reminds me of early days of TV when the host did the commercials.

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  14. Sarah -- I guess you need to determine your own personal metaphorical chickens after a careful evaluation of yourself, your product, and your target audience.

    Petra -- I imagine some purveyor of quack remedies can be found somewhere nearby.

    Huntress -- I'll bet the writers at WKRP got the idea from Cas Walker.

    Anna -- I love colors! I'd rather be throwing the chickens than in the crowd trying to catch them.

    J.L.-- the important thing is to be properly innovative in context with time, place, and social norms.

    Stephanie -- The Chicken gimmick is not going to go over well these days. But there is always some crazy stunt to be thought up.

    Kathy M -- Maybe rubber chickens, but I've heard of somebody using that shtick recently though I can't recall who did it.

    Susan -- Things could be more fun and spontaneous before the advent of all the slick technology we have now. I recall some of the old kooky commercial bits on TV.

    Lee

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  15. What a fun post!! I think I would have freaked out to have a live chicken thrown at me, but then I am not much of a farm girl. LOL Loved reading this bit of Tennessee history.

    Kathy
    http://gigglingtruckerswife.blogspot.com

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  16. What a face, what a great sales gimmick, what a guy! Gee, now I'll have to think up some wild maneuver to sell Fireseed One! Food for thought.

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  17. Interesting story and great advice

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  18. Cas sounds like a man ahead of his time. Can you imagine him today? He would be everywhere!

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  19. Great Post Lee. I love seeing how the pioneers did it. Folks like Phil, right?

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  20. Jeremy -- Thanks

    Kathy -- Yeah, I don't think I'd want to be catching any thrown chickens--especially as part of a mob of people.

    Catherine -- Good luck with it. Be yourself and capitalize on your talents.

    Heather --Hope it helps someone.

    Carol -- He wouldn't be able to use those tactics, but it would be interesting to see what he'd try.

    Arthur -- You got it! Philip Morris is old school, but the business has stayed on top of things.

    Lee

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  21. I was turned off from gimmicks when one of my ex-boyfriend's had a band who would throw Twinkies out into the crowd at every show. I was embarrassed for us both.

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  22. Here in the Northwest we have had some of this type of advertising. We had a Cal Worthington that sold cars in a cowboy hat and sang "go see Cal, go see Cal, go see Cal". Also a guy that would do tricks with chainsaws and other weird tactics to sell appliances. And an insurance guy that deliberately tries to appeal to people with a bad driving record.
    My point is that I remember these people and their commercials and I hardly ever know what's going on with regular commercials. I don't even know what product their trying to sell most of the time. So being direct and being local and funny seems to work for me.
    This could certainly work for many products and services I would imagine.

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  23. Hi Arlee! Interesting post. Throwing chickens of the roof of the store. Don't know about that one, but if it brought more customers to the store. Sounds like Cas Walker knew how to think outside of the box.

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  24. Cas Walker was a unique individual! I remember a a car dealer in the Chicagoland television market, who for many years crafted a unique persona that charmed and enabled him to sell automobiles. Developing a unique brand is important.

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