A new OFFLINE social media marketing idea

While I was driving today I saw a van with Progressive Auto Insurance painted on it. It was probably a company owned van, but I was also reminded of the Geek Squad Beetles that I see every once in awhile and some other company painted cars.

This got me thinking.

I noticed that paintings or signs on cars often get noticed. People even look at other people’s car license plates.

Basically, these cars get a lot of eyeballs.

The social media way of marketing offline

Applying my background in Social Media Marketing, I came up with a new marketing idea that is low cost but highly effective.

This is how it works:

A company creates a program, where they would advertise on the cars of people who commute long distances everyday.

They can pay a couple hundred dollars to these people every month to do the exact same things they would be doing anyway.

Heck, instead of paying money, this company could just offer to pay all their gas bills.

Social Media is about everyone being a publisher

I include this as social media marketing because the essence of social media is that everyone can be a publisher.

Instead of having large budgets to publish on a billboard, everyone has their own little properties (such as blogs) and they can reach their own little niche by publishing or advertising on their little properties.

I seriously think more companies should advertise on blogs because bloggers are easy to satisfy monetarily, and you seriously reach a large crowd who pay attention to you just because “Oh! This blogger found advertisers! I wonder how much is she getting paid. Maybe $50/month” “Oh, it’s the same company ad on this other blog too! They’re all over the place now!”

$100 to make 1000 people think you are all over the place. Not a bad deal.

So in this case, we’re taking the exact same principles but just applying it to an offline property, specifically one’s car, where we know already has a lot of eyeballs and follows where the customer goes.

A win-win situation in a bad economy

Especially in this economy, people are very stripped of cash and a lot of them would signup since it does not make their lives more inconvenient.

Gas price is expected to rise again, so a program offering to pay for their gas is a win-win situation because the driver would not be concerned of driving longer distances, while the company would gain more exposure for that.

If you have 200 of these cars driving around, with lets say about $200 per car per month. That’s $40,000 a month, which is the price of many billboards.

However, it’s convincing that each of these cars will be seen by AT LEAST 20 different people a day(I would say over 100 if the driver spends more than an hour a day commuting), so the total reach would become 20x30x200 = 120,000 per month. What’s even better is that these ads are guaranteed to be at where a lot of people are, since it’s the people themselves that are taking them there.

Potentials of getting some free press and word-of-mouth marketing

If your company is one of the first to do something like this, people will start to talk about you if they see the same promotion on 3-4 different cars while driving to work. The press might even cover you so there’s a lot of added benefits, making it even more cost effective.

Even the 200 people who wear your ads will excitingly talk to their friends and their coworkers about it, creating WAY stronger effects than just a billboard ad.

Also, what better way to make people’s day better than having them be cheerfully reminded of this everyday in the morning?

If you know you are making money off just driving, it makes you feel better about commuting, or even when you are stuck in traffic. (Note: for environmental concerns, please still commute when you can. I am referring to people that are already driving that distance no matter what.)

Make it easy for people to opt out and rely on honor codes

In terms of practicality concerns, it would probably be difficult have people’s cars painted, because they need something that they can be easily opt out from.

However, creating some sort of easily removed stickers and have a few on each side of the car should have the same effects with very low set up costs.

Sure, there might be some dishonest people who turn in the gas receipts of their spouses car too etc etc, but even if that is the case, the price of having these mobile ads is still excellent. Obviously it shouldn’t go way out of hand, but that’s easy to detect.

You could probably include in the contract that once someone is caught cheating, they need to return all the gas money that was every given to them because there is no way to verify how much did they cheat on. Fear of that and losing this good deal would probably stop most people from cheating.

The point is that you are getting a crazy promotion deal with a fraction of what it would cost you otherwise, and it makes the driver happy too.

If you refer back to my blogpost How to Impress Everyone by Just Driving Around, driving becomes ultra productive. You increase your level by learning from podcasts, and you get paid doing it!

6 comments
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Yu-kai Chou
Yu-kai Chou

Hey Andy! Good thoughts! I like the of doing the advertisement through the dealership. However, a problem may be that people who really need this won't be buying new cars, so we wouldn't really get to reach them. This solution is definitely not meant for people in small towns or for the very wealthy. This is most likely for the people who live in big cities and are stuck in traffic all day trying to pay the bills (Which turns out to be a lot of people). Mercedes driver won't be a good advertiser for this (although it would be flash for the ad if it is so!), but Honda Accords would be :) I think there will be no negative effects on the actual products one is selling. People might dislike the marketing campaign, and if there are serious accidents than the government will create regulations against it, but just in general, I don't see anyone saying "They unsafely advertise on people's cars. I will never use their product!"

Andy Patskowski
Andy Patskowski

Good thinking....several comments come to mind: Type/quality/upkeep of the consumer's car - perhaps you could strike a deal with car dealerships to ensure the car doing the advertising is in newer condition and ideally maps against the brand you are advertising NASCAR-ish - in my tiny metro area, I would be concerned that the suburban elites would look down their nose at advertising on one's car. The problem is they have the money to be purchasing the products we advertise. Have you ever seen a Mercedes with a bumper sticker??? Negative PR - might be an issue if the advertising vehicle is involved in a negligent accident or worse a OWI/DUI

Yu-kai Chou
Yu-kai Chou

@Brian: Thanks for the comment! It is more difficult for an individual to just go out and ask for ad space on their car because the firm actually needs to make the stickers or whatnot for you. That's why I approach the solution from the company side of things, telling them that if they create this program, it's way good of a deal, and people like you can benefit from it too :) @Ru: Thanks for your honest feedback :) . I think if you offered $200 a month, it is definitely simpler. I was coming from the standpoint of what sounds more appealing to the consumer. However, you do have a point there and it is probably a better idea just to give out some cash. Now you just risk overpaying when there are months when they don't ever touch their cars (on vacation).

Ru
Ru

There is no reason to make life difficult for yourself by making the payment in gas per month. Even if the people drove allot and did not cheat (which I find very unlikely) there is no guarantee that they got viewed a predictable amount more. Think of the additional paperwork. Cool idea.

Brian Linton
Brian Linton

Yea, I've thought of this before as I drive up and down the east coast on sales calls - and thought that it could make some good money for the driver. I've played with the idea of selling ad space this summer on my car on a per square inch basis. I think this idea could be combined with online social media to attract the advertisers. Interesting...hmm...now you have me excited.

Matt Hanson
Matt Hanson

Good writing. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed my Google News Reader.. Matt Hanson