The Failed Marketing Device, or: If life gives you (floppy rubber) lemons…

Originally posted on Tembua’s website.

Preparing to exhibit at a national conference later this spring, we ordered several small advertising giveaways. For years our signature item has been a coffee coaster with our logo and tag line, and people know to come to our booth for the new coaster every year.

Although some of the giveaways weren’t planned for one of the local exhibits, we put a rush on this year’s coasters because we did want the new design for the clients we would see there.

As the saying goes, haste makes waste. Due to a holiday and some confusion over the color of the coasters, the order hadn’t arrived the day before the exhibit. In a display of true customer service, our vendor picked up the coasters from the shipper and brought them to the exhibit hall for us as we were setting up our booth.

It would be hard to say who was more surprised when we opened the box — us or the vendor. Instead of the lovely brushed suede embossed coasters we had ordered, we had hundreds of floppy, super-thin jar openers. No wonder the box was so light.

I am not a particularly patient person. People were beginning to enter the exhibit hall and I was angrily shoving the box out of sight at the back of our booth when our Marketing Coordinator grabbed a handful of the “coasters” and approached the first people near us.

“Can I offer you a failed marketing device?” she chirped with a huge smile. “In fact, we’d like some help trying to figure out just what these actually are!” They laughed and came to the booth where she was rapidly fanning out a display of the item. She continued an easy banter and slipped brochures and business cards into their hands along with the “coaster.”

During the rest of the day we collected a list of possible uses. Ranging from knee pads for filing to patches for worn jeans, from frisbees to eye-shades to elbow patches to falsies (!), the suggestions had people laughing around our booth most of the day. Incidentally, while they laughed and came up with ideas, our logo was in front of their eyes much longer than it would have been with the normal coffee coaster.

I suppose you could say that instead of coffee, we made lemonade that day.


About tembua

Tembua: The Precision Language Solution provides comprehensive linguistic services for 100 languages to private industry and government agencies on a global scale. Services include document and website translation and localization; conference and 24/7 telephonic interpretation; glossary development; proofreading, text adaptation, editing, multilingual design and DTP; transcription; technical / custom authoring editing, foreign search engine optimization; translation memory management; subtitling.
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