Last month, my wife and I hit the road for a long Memorial Day weekend visit to see my son Josh and his wife Madeline.  They moved from Indiana to South Carolina a couple years ago and we were looking forward to seeing their new place and enjoying the weekend including some beach time at Hilton Head.

I was the chief navigator as my Mrs. occupied the drivers seat most of the 4 days on the road.

I got to assist as the Google Maps GPS lady would tell us when to turn and quite frankly,  she took us down some roads that are hardly traveled unless you are one of the locals. I purposely set the GPS to avoid interstates and we saw some great country side along with traveling on two lane roads through the mountains.

What’s this have to do with advertising and marketing?

A couple of thoughts came to mind actually.

  1.  Don’t be afraid to take a different route than the others in your business. As long as you know where you want to end up, be courageous and consider the alternate routes and the roads less traveled.
  2. Advertising messages that we are exposed to in our cars… that’s the real topic for today.
  3. The relevancy of radio commercials and the way they are presented can make a huge difference, but I’ll save the details for a future article.

We saw lots of messages on road side signs and billboards as we traveled and many were informative.  Some were informational which was helpful when we needed to know how far it was to the next town, or gas station.

Very few advertising messages on the billboards were memorable, at least for us.   Many had too many words or the font and colors made it hard to read.  Others had messages that I didn’t relate to because I wasn’t familiar with the area.

By the way, if you ever do billboard advertising, keep the message down to 7 words or less. McDonalds does a good job with this, they had the most memorable signs during our trip.

We also ran across a couple detours during our road trip and I’m going to take us down one with this article right now too.

Several years ago Walgreens decided to make a huge investment in their marketing that went beyond their advertising.  In my part of Fort Wayne, I noticed that Walgreens expanded and built a free standing store across the intersection from the strip mall they were previously occupying for years.

The new Walgreens sign included an LED sign with messages that they programmed in to announce sale prices for their specials.  Sometimes they broke the seven words rule I mentioned a moment ago, but their marketing strategy went deep, much deeper than most folks realized at the time they were converting from strip mall locations to free standing stores.

Nearly every store now has this LED sign attached to the familiar Walgreens sign.  Think for a second about the last time you saw one of signs in front of a Walgreens.  You probably don’t remember the specials they advertised but that’s okay.  Those specials advertised on the LED signs were only designed to convert a few people who say them into customers at the moment.    I haven’t done a study or even talked to the marketing people at Walgreens, but I bet they change the advertising messages at least once a week, since they change their other advertising specials weekly too.

Now here’s the genius behind Walgreens deep marketing strategy.  Did you ever notice where Walgreens is located?  Most likely they are at an intersection.  A street corner.  Not just any street corner however.  A street corner intersection that has a traffic light.  That traffic light is key to the success of their LED signs advertising weekly specials.

The traffic light forces some of the cars at the intersection to stop for a period of time.  What do you do when you are waiting for the light to change green?  You look around, out the window and you see the LED sign at Walgreens.  It captures your attention because it is changing, not static.  The advertising messages change every few seconds with different specials.  It draws you in.

Most of us don’t even realize that Walgreens has coordinated the placement of their stores to street corners with traffic lights so we would read the advertising messages on their LED signs and be influenced to think positively about Walgreens.

Have you been to your corner store?

Oh, there is another element to Walgreens marketing that I noticed awhile ago.  They didn’t announce that they were rebranding their advertising with a new slogan, they just tied it all together when they had enough of these new corner stores built.   Walgreens at the corner of happy & healthy is a registered trademark.  That means they were serious about everything I’ve been talking about.

Obviously Walgreens has deeper pockets than most small or medium businesses and they could have pulled the plug on these marketing tactics any time down the road but they didn’t and while the advertising slogan isn’t going to change your mind about where you buy your drugs, birthday cards or toilet paper, it’s influential even if you were unaware until now. Just the other day Walgreens Chief Digital Marketing Officer published insight on what they are doing now and in the future to stay relevant as many brick and mortar retailers are struggling this year.

Walgreens invested in the long term with the marketing strategy that included real estate investments along with everything else.

However every once in awhile there are opportunities to grab people’s attention in traffic that take advantage of a short term situation.

The busiest intersection in Fort Wayne Indiana is Coliseum and Coldwater and right now the section of Coldwater road north of Coliseum is under construction with two lanes closed.  If traffic was bad before, it’s extra bad now.

There is no Walgreens at this intersection but close to the intersection is a Merle Norman Cosmetics Studio.  They had a banner made that hangs along the road that anyone heading south will see.  It reads, “Traffic is a Drag, Makeup is Fun” with their name and phone number.  I shared it on Facebook and a lot of folks agreed, it is clever marketing that takes advantage of a bad situation and puts a smile on faces.

Clever Marketing in action

Are you ready to stop doing what everyone else in your profession is doing to advertise and market your business and perhaps take the road less traveled?

Are you ready to dig deep and start planning a long term marketing strategy like Walgreens?

And are you ready to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves right in front of you like Merle Norman?

Let’s talk, explore, dig and plan.  Contact me.