Sombrero Marketing

I recently visited Brazil for the kick-off of World Cup festivities. It was a fantastic experience to witness the convergence of fans from all over the world, representing their teams in bright and vivid colors. One country stuck-out above all the rest and made a strong marketing impression on me.

It was the rambunctious and excited fans from Mexico. They were unmistakable in their gigantic sombreros. Having sombreros with them is one thing, but the fact that they were thousands of miles from home with hats the size of car hoods, was certainly attention grabbing. They were transporting these ufo sized hats on the flights, carrying them through airports, and wearing them in places like small crowded bars and restaurants. Some of the hats were twice the depth of an overhead bin, did they have to buy extra plane tickets or do they somehow double as pillows?

Here are some fun yet insightful “sombrero” takeaways that marketers can learn from. So see if your marketing practices can stand out in a world cup crowd:

Marketing takes effort. As a very light traveler myself (picture surviving for 3 days out of my laptop bag) I was impressed with the level of effort the Mexican fans applied in just getting their sombreros across the continent. Sometimes effort in marketing means inconveniencing people, including yourself. Too many marketers operate from a very safe and controlled comfort zone. Today’s customer world moves far too quickly for the marketers that aren’t prepared to extend their efforts into some risky ventures. The next time you prioritize budgets, make plans, or conduct any scenario planning, ask yourself if you are doing enough to stretch your level of effort beyond previous comfort levels. Is what you intend to do actually going to make an impact on others, or are you just following the safe and proven blueprint?

Sombrero MarketingDifferentiation
The Brazilian beaches, sidewalks, and attractions were exactly like any crowded competitive industry. Lots of people walking around in all their team colors and outfits. Each outfit being extremely “unique” and special to that person, just as brand managers are sure that their products and marketing are unique and special.

These fans had fallen in love with their outfits just as marketers love their products. Marketers think that they create “differentiation, unique selling propositions and propitious niches”, but in reality, most never find the power, ideas, or approvals to be effective. They need to step back and gain perspective to determine if they really stand-out on a crowded street of colorful brands. With perspective, they need to turn back internally and look for the sombrero opportunities right under their nose. You probably have one or two team members with the intuition and creativity to give you your next sombrero opportunity. Have you found them yet? And do you have them working on the right things?

This was my second in-person World Cup, yet I am still surprised at the ability of fans to temper their deep rivalries, in order to coexist and make the event feel like one big party. Marketing is no different. Your brand needs to compete fiercely while you interact with real humans that desperately want to have fun and be part of a party. Deep down inside, you should always keep the fire burning in order to have an absolute resolve to destroy your competitors. You can despise them internally, while your external actions embody a voice of fun, excitement, and participation in the “party” (the industry, the community, other circles). Think simple in order to test your sombrero (programs) “fun-to-effectiveness” ratio. Does your copy sound fun and interesting to those outside your industry circle? Do you reply to complaints and tough questions with a response that you would expect from a family member or close friend? To borrow from my friend Bryan Kramer and his #h2h book, speak to your customer like humans, and they’ll tell you more than you want to know!

Attention grabbing
Well, the giant sombreros certainly proved themselves to be attention grabbing accessories to a basic soccer jersey. People reacted to the Mexican fans with a range of emotions. Shock, laughter, enthusiasm, and respect. For the most part, it was a respectful enthusiasm that drew many fans to these sombrero fans, so much so that they became the photo rockstars of all the nations.

Does your brand have the right conversation starters? The right attention grabbing conversation starters are the very genesis of quality content that goes viral. Exactly what many marketers try so hard to manufacture. It can be a real balancing act.   What will garner attention, but not take you too far from your brand attributes. So put on your biggest hat, marketers. Wear it with pride, without fear, and have some fun. Your customer not only notice – they’ll want a big hat too.

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