Much ado about nothing

This guest post is from Andy Nulman — President of Just for Laughs and author of “Pow! Right Between the Eyes: Profiting from the Power of Surprise.” See the original post this was adapted from and more like it on his blog.

Little BayRadiohead did it six years ago, Alfalfa and the rest of the Little Rascals did it over seven decades ago, and then the Little Bay Restaurant in London did it too… and reaped the benefits of Pow! (the power of surprise) on an international basis.

The “it” is a simple attention-generating device, allowing customers to “pay what they want” for a product or service, which is what Little Bay’s owner, Peter Ilic, offered his customers for a month (see the picture of the tell-tale sign and receipt). There are a number of factors at work here that see the ploy generating an exponential amount of buzz all over the world:

  • Timing is impeccable; the story is tailor-made for recessionary days
  • The offer is concrete, easy to explain and understand
  • The offer comes from a high-end eatery; Little Bay is no greasy spoon, with a menu that features such epicurean delights as foie gras, smoked salmon, caviar, and filet steak (not to mention live opera as in-house entertainment)

Little BayThis may have cost Ilic a few thousand pounds, but he made it up in spades with the amount of coverage he earned (and I use that term with the utmost of respect).

When the next month rolled around and the price tags once again appeared on the menu, he was back in business big time.

Same thing goes for Denny’s, who once rolled out a free Grand Slam breakfast for everyone in America after their Super Bowl ad (crummy ad; exquisite Pow! offer). It cost them $5 million, with more than half of that spent on the ad alone. Return? $50 million worth of coverage and a whole slew of new customers, or at least new customer attitudes (my younger son Hayes stood in line for a couple of hours in Idaho waiting for his Grand Slam and had a blast; it was live social networking where everyone was talking about Denny’s).

Yeah, times are tough. But as one of the four major Surprise Marketing Theories espouses: Big Balls Beat Big Budgets. The disproportionate results of these two very different restaurants demonstrates that to the risky go the spoils of victory.

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About Andy Nulman

President of Just For Laughs, world's biggest comedy organization. Former mobile tech entrepreneur. Wild public speaker. Wilder public dresser. Author. Hockey player. Gym rat. Needs a longer bio.

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