Since 2016

November 2010

Politics and Business Mix with a Bobblehead Twist

spinning head doll is a twist on the bobblehead conceptThough politics is on everyone's mind these days, most people try to avoid discussing it in a business situation. And though businesses may be making contributions to campaigns, you won't generally see them endorsing a candidate in their own product advertising. It takes a clever marketer to find a way to promote their brand in a political theme without alienating half of their target audience.

Back in May of 2009, Minnesota was about 200 days into a long recount of the Senate race between Norm Coleman and Al Franken. (Franken eventually won by 312 votes out of 2.9 million - after a record 238-day recount.) The long process captured national attention as it wound its way through a series of court appeals. In addition to being the incumbent, Coleman was a former mayor of St. Paul, so that city was especially attuned to the saga.

The St. Paul Saints minor league baseball team saw an opportunity to capitalize on all this attention. One of their major sponsors, TDS Metrocom, a regional telephone company and internet service provider, regularly ran promotions involving gifts for fans. They felt that a promotion related to the ongoing recount would generate buzz and make a nice collector's item for the fans. While a matching pair of bobbleheads could have gotten the message across, it seemed too cumbersome to require attendees to collect multiple items, not to mention the political dynamics that would be encountered in distribution. The preliminary idea for a pair of bobblehead dolls evolved into a spinning head doll design.

With two faces looking opposite directions and a count's dramatic black cape (conveniently coinciding with the 40th anniversary of Sesame Street and its beloved character, The Count), “The ReCount” doll was an instant hit when it was given out to the first 2,500 people to arrive at the Saints' stadium on May 23, before the senatorial race had been decided. People didn't wait till game time - they lined up at dawn to get their tickets. Even more important for sponsor TDS, whose brand was displayed prominently on the doll, the excitement didn't end when the game did.

Coverage of the promotion by ABC News, CNN, USA Today and several other outlets soon followed. The national attention led to plenty of free placement as local news outlets inserted the story into their programs. It was even picked up in some magazine articles, always with a picture of the doll and the TDS logo. Their marketing department reported that it was one of the best investments they had ever made.

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“Green Queen” Builds a Personal Brand

The Green Queen uses totes for brandingReal Estate sales is all about personal branding. This is not to say that a corporate brand isn’t important; it can certainly add some credibility. But it's really about the agent. Susan Singer, senior vice president of sales for The Corcoran Group, decided to build her personal brand around sustainability - a growing trend in the real estate industry. She calls herself “The Green Queen”, as she includes an eco-friendly element in all of her marketing. Working in New York City, she's found this theme resonates with her clientelle.

Years ago, the traditional refrigerator magnets and mouse pads worked fine for her. But once the Green Queen identity took hold, they were no longer relevant. To help spread the word about her business, she ordered plenty of imprinted tote bags made of recycled plastic material. The bags feature a stenciled image of the historic London Terrace apartment building, for which she is a broker, as well as her contact information and branding for Corcoran Group Real Estate. She says she decided not to include the name of the London Terrace building so that the bag would have wider appeal – she wanted it to be, “just about living in New York and having an eco-friendly bag … that way people will want to use them and it’s just free advertising.”

Singer sent the totes to her neighbors, clients and potential clients – and gave one to every unit in London Terrace. She also distributes them at events when the opportunity arises. For example, she recently offered the bags after she spoke at an Earth Day seminar at Baruch College in Manhattan.

The totes direct people to Singer's website,, where they will find information about her properties ranging from Brooklyn to Uptown Manhattan, as well as Tales of the Green Queen, a regular comic strip in which a cartoon version of Singer tours the city, helping people save on energy costs. While she acknowledges that these days the economy often weighs on real estate buyers more than the environment does, she says the totes get an enthusiastic response. “I've had people call me or e-mail me saying, ‘I am so grateful for this tote, it's so sweet and reminds me of the building,’ and people from the building have just stopped me on the street,” she says. “It's really been very good for me.”

Whether your marketing plan fits well with a sustainability theme, or some other theme, make sure that the promotional products in your branding effort are a good match. Consistency is key.

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