Avoiding Gimmicks in Marketing: Why It Matters

Surely, every marketing professional has at some point in their career overheard the phrase, “seems like a gimmick to me.” Heavily used both by skeptical consumers as well as marketers themselves, the idea of the “gimmick” describes a cheap or tacky attempt at marketing a product or service. And there are times when the gimmick has worked.

Consider the example of the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile or the famous “Wassup” Budweiser commercial. Neither of these ideas were slam dunks right off the bat. Consumer reaction could easily have been different. Instead, these two advertising moves are universally remembered fondly even if they are decades old. So the game is about balance. Marketers must remain creative in order to stay ahead of the competition, but each campaign strategy must be carefully weighed before implementation.

Many brands have launched campaigns that would be considered risky — Nike’s recent campaign around Colin Kaepernick stands out as one example. However, the messaging and intent behind the campaign was enough to overcome the risks and firmly cement itself as anything but a gimmick. If an idea seems like it may be a gimmick, do some digging.

Figure out if the campaign is still something worth exploring, perhaps with a different perspective. Let’s use the example of a fitness company looking to improve its customer perception by offering free food on certain days of the week. Everyone loves free, right? But when gym members or prospective clients show up on the designated day, the food is sparse and unhealthy.

The selections are low — and yes, while they are free, there still should be some quality to what’s offered — and they aren’t exactly indicative of a healthy lifestyle. In this instance, the risk isn’t worth the reward. At the very least, this campaign could have been improved to offer fresh, healthy options for customers to choose from. The lack of foresight in offering unhealthy food at a gym, of all places, is an example of a gimmick that can do more harm than good. Behind every successful marketing strategy is a well-thought-out strategy that has done relevant research and forecasting into whether or not the idea is viable.

Yes, there are some situations in which decisions will need to be made quickly, but it’s important to take the time to properly map out the lifecycle of the campaign. The concept of “going viral” or getting a reaction out of customers is an attractive one for most businesses looking to make a splash and really get a good return on their investment.

However, one critical step that many miss is that of figuring out how to keep the momentum generated by a successful viral campaign going. First, though, make sure that the campaign goes viral for the right reasons. A properly executed gimmick can pay off, but in most scenarios, it’s best to go with the strategic and properly research approached. But, there’s no harm in injecting a bit of personality — just remember: everything lasts forever online.

Ronn Torossian, 5WPR CEO

Ronn Torossian

Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5WPR and one of the most well-respected Public Relations professionals in the United States. Ronn is the author of "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations."

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