I posed this question to my community of entrepreneurs this past Sunday in my weekly e-newsletter, as a creative example of taking advantage of timely events to exploit for publicity. The reaction was instant and went something like this:
– Love it Mary
– You should so totally call them and tell them to do this
– Can’t wait for the headline that credits some marketing consultant in Vancouver with this idea. That would be you, Mary!
The reactions were of course prior to the unbelievable news that Carey Price, Montreal’s star goalie, (who also took team Canada to gold at the Sochi Winter Olympics) had been knocked from the series with an injury sustained in game one. It was like someone had sucker punched the entire city of Montreal, much of Canada for that matter, as dreams of a run to the cup looked a lot less certain.
On Saturday we knew that Price had been crashed in the net at high speed, and had not finished the game. The back up goalie had replaced him, and it was based on the assumption that he would return, that many bullishly dismissed the 7-2 loss without Price between the pipes.
Suddenly my idea to rebrand New York Fries to Montreal Fries seemed more of a hedged risky bet, with a shorter potential for return…
While I’m still cheering for Montreal, returning to New York for two games there, having lost the first two on their home ice is a tough place to be. But let’s explore the publicity stunt rebrand idea anyway, since there are some marketing creativity lessons to be learned.
Hockey is a national pastime for many Canadians, somehow attached to our DNA, a collective experience referred to as “our game.” This years Conference final, one step away from the final round to the Stanley Cup, has given us something to cheer about with the Montreal Canadiens facing off against New York Rangers. I’ll pause here to admit that I am a Vancouver Canucks fan, but given we didn’t make the run this year, I have shifted my loyalties, albeit briefly.
Despite the fact Montreal is currently down two games; right now the city of Montreal is crazed for hockey.
And that got me thinking of timely promotional opportunities that a local Montreal business could leverage to gain media coverage and increase sales. What if New York Fries stores located in Quebec, renamed themselves Montreal Fries for the next couple weeks, or until the series ends?
In case you think this is a crazy idea, there is a premise for it in the past. When Vancouver was in the Stanley Cup final against Boston in 2010, Boston Pizza locations in BC changed their name to Vancouver Pizza. It generated media frenzy in print, radio and TV, and no doubt increased sales, especially during games. Brad Bissonnette, Boston Pizza’s director of regional marketing at the time said they ordered up rebranding banners for all 62 locations at a cost of around $20,000. The media coverage, sales and good will far exceeded that investment.
Tim Hortons, the venerable purveyor of coffee, donuts and hockey loyalty in Canada, reportedly had very low sales for their Boston Cream donut in Montreal the last couple weeks while the Canadiens battled the Boston Bruins prior to the conference final. Here’s a shot from the Tim Hortons location at Montreal’s Bell Centre. Not a big seller at the game apparently, that Boston Cream.
There are three New York Fries locations close to Montreal in St. Clair, Gatineau and Hull. I called the Hull location on Friday to suggest the idea. The store manager mused with me, but was very non-committal, since they are a franchise. I then called their head office in Toronto on Wednesday morning and spoke to the Marketing Manager, Alyssa Berenstein. She thought it was a fabulous idea, but noted the timing would be awfully tight to do anything with it now and like much of Montreal she was feeling a lot less bullish about how long the series would now run. We did have a few laughs over doing something with poutine and sending some New Yorkers gravy and cheese curd covered fries.
This is the magic of marketing and promotions. You need to be tapped into timely events, be willing to do crazy things, and have the media contacts and savvy to leverage the story. You also need to understand that sometimes in the middle of a great idea, life happens. Montreal’s goalie, Carey Price, being out of the series has changed the dynamics of optimism and the willingness to take risks for New York Fries it would appear. It was such a great idea for those two days!
And what if Montreal somehow wins the series? There might be a french fry company wishing it had taken the advice of a Vancouver marketing consultant!