What are you selling?

In my hometown, there’s an annual downtown event that celebrates different nationalities. During this celebration of different cultures, there has been a three-on-three basketball tournament, “Teen Idol” competition, and they sell lots of funnelcakes and corndogs. The organizers say that the festival really shows the international flavor of the community.

The question is: Is it a celebration of ethnic cultures — or a circus/carnival?

A couple of years ago, the A.D. at the local college was excited about the fact that alcohol was now allowed on campus during certain sports event. He was bragging about increased attendance at the baseball games. He said it was because people were really behind the team.

The question is: Are you running a collegiate athletic program — or a bar?

A radio station decided it would be a good idea to sell sponsorships to their advertisers on refrigerator magnets that had emergency numbers on them. It was a huge success. But the sales manager can’t figure out why sales are down on radio airtime.

The question is: Does a media outlet sell quick-profit gimmicks and promotions — or their media reach?

There’s nothing wrong with carnivals, bars, and magnets. But you have to be true to your core mission if you want to be successful in the long term.

Because a few of those people attending the ethnic festival want to see the mariachis, eat an egg roll, and watch the spanish dancers. Each year as the corndog crowd grows, these core users will fade away. And then what will the organizers be left with?

It’s dangerous to look at this week’s sales numbers or attendance at the last ballgame and try to figure out a gimmick to get them up for next time. You might see short-term gains. But make sure your short-term gain isn’t killing your long term prospects.

Chris Houchens is a marketing raconteur & writer. Connect with him on Twitter or Facebook.

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