Boulder CreekFest Vendors Waste a Golden Opportunity, with One Notable Exception
In Boulder, Colorado, my home town, Memorial Day Weekend means the Boulder Creek Festival. And Creekfest is your typical small-town spring fair, with two exceptions: the Boulder Creek Rubber Duck Race (a $5 donation buys a numbered rubber duckie to float from one end of downtown to the other), and the Bolder Boulder (a major foot race that draws a few serious competitive runners and 20,000 costumed crazies).
Creekfest draws some 350,000 visitors so it’s a guerrilla marketer’s dream. It has all the trappings you’d expect: dozens of food stalls, two beer gardens, carnival rides, inflatable bouncers, bungee-enhanced super-trampolines, five stages of live music and block-after-block of EZ-up tents selling art, jewelry, hemp clothing, solar collectors, bottled yogurt, soy milk, artificial turf, New Zealand hats, wheat-filled neck warmers, hand-made musical frogs and 1,000-thread-count-Egyptian-cotton sheets (actually 100% microfiber Made in China).
Also represented were The Libertarian Party (who were having some sort of political shouting match) Boulder County Parks and Open Space (featuring a stuffed coyote you couldn’t touch), a chiropractor (offering “Free Gentle Adjustment”), a yoga studio and a Judo school (who weren’t offering anything).
If I had been the guerrilla marketing police I would have written a whole book of tickets. While THRONGS of people strolled slowly by, most exhibitors just SAT there under their tent, with DOZENS of pieces of literature spread out on the TABLE set BETWEEN themselves and the traffic, and talking to EACH OTHER. These would-be vendors had paid $550 and up for a ten-foot tent space just so that they could waste a perfectly good Memorial Day weekend WISHING they had more business!
We did see a couple of exceptions. The guy at the Boulder Brewery beer kiosk made eye contact and simply asked, “What’s your favorite?” Never mind that a 12 oz. plastic cup was $5.00. He just ASSUMED that because I was standing in front of his stall, I MUST be thirsty. (I recommend their “Dazed and Infused” IPA.)
Remember at Team summit, I said “Have something for the kids to do.”
What stopped me in my tracks was the sound of a four-year-old boy wailing away on a snare drum and hi-hat, accompanied by a ten-year-old blond Hanna Montana wanna-be on electric guitar, and a teen age boy with greasy black hair playing electric bass. You could hear them a block away. Three adults in matching black rock-concert-roadie T-shirts were standing by, cheering them on. The banner overhead said, “Free Lessons.”
This I had to watch. Within seconds, a young woman in her early 20’s wearing black jeans and a matching black T-shirt approached and asked, “Are you a musician?”
“No,” I said, offering my stock answer. “I’m a drummer.”
She laughed, smiled ear-to-ear and said, “I’m a drummer TOO! But I’ve only been playing for about two weeks.” She offered her business card and asked what sort of music I liked to play.
“Actually, I play in a working Brazilian Jazz band.”
“OH, a professional! Well, then, you’ll have to stop by our rehearsal studio in Lafayette. It’s a nice, comfortable place to practice, and it’s already equipped with drums, amps and keyboards.”
I was impressed. Three hours of wondering through block after block of booths and she was the only vendor (besides the beer guy) who had engaged me. Not only that; she had greeted, qualified, and asked for the order in less than a minute.
Her card said, “Dog House Music” and her name was Lindsay Polak, Marketing/Communications Manager. When I asked what they were doing at CreekFest, she explained that they were promoting their Summer Rock & Roll Camp for Teens AND their Fantasy Rock & Roll Camp for Adults. An 8½ x 11 stand-up on the table said, in plain black letters on white paper, “Enroll Today Save $50.” She handed me two single-page fliers and a sticker.
“This is really COOL, what you’re doing here, but I already have a rehearsal studio.”
“Well, perhaps you’d consider being an instructor?” she said. “We’re always looking for good people.” I just about fainted!
S0 what can a Guerrilla Retailer learn from a 20 year old drummer about Event Marketing?
1. You’ve invested a lot to be there; make it pay
2. Remove all barriers between you and your traffic
3. Use simple signs and banners to make your offer clear
4. Put all your people in some sort of uniform so we know who to approach
5. Invite visitors (and especially kids) to participate in a simple, low-cost, fun activity
6. Limit your promotion to two or three offerings you can explain in seconds
7. Proactively engage the adults (they’re the tall ones with the credit cards)
8. Start a conversation and ask qualifying questions
9. Ask for the order
10. Don’t let anyone leave empty-handed
The music wasn’t ready for the main stage, but everyone at this tent was having a ball, ESPECIALLY the instructors. Lindsay and her colleagues are definitely rock stars of guerrilla retailing. Check out their web site. www.doghousemusic.com.