When Is Clever Too Clever?

Ever since "man bites dog," we have understood that unusual attracts attention. But when is clever too clever? It's a good question.

Seeing 1,000 Colonel Sanders run around New York City handing out samples, then showing up en bloc at a Yankees game that night is clever. Undergoing a prostate exam while singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh inning stretch of a minor league baseball game seems, well, too clever by a measure. Or is it?

Myrtle Beach Pelican General Manager Andy Milovich underwent the exam, thankfully while he was in the press box, to promote prostate prevention. He earned national media coverage by showing how easy it is to be examined. You can even sing through it.

The answer to the question of when an idea is too clever for its own good is when the idea attracts attention, but for no good reason.

Make Noise to Make News

If you want news coverage for your brand, make news. If you don't have any legitimate news, then make noise. 

There is a lot of competition for coverage — in the traditional press, trade press and blogosphere. Sending cookie-cutter press releases is akin to folding a paper airplane and pushing it out the window.

Even press releases with sharp story hooks may not turn into coverage because of bad timing or a reporter is chasing what he or she thinks is better story. Reporters face a new dynamic in how they are evaluated and compensated — their ability to post stories that attract clicks and reader reaction. A great story that elicits a broad smile is not as valuable these days as a story that will spark online comments.

That's where noise fits in. Noisy subjects elicit reactions, which is what reporters and editors want.

Making noise involves something quite different than adding audio or video to your press release. It means finding or creating activity that is noisy enough to break the sound barrier of today's crowded marketplace.

Dewey Weddington, who calls himself the Chief Fermentor at Ferment Marketing, describes how he created noise for SakeOne by teaming with prominent chefs in San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Beverly Hills and, of course, Portland. He provided sake to each chef and allowed them total freedom to create dishes using the product. 

Writers in Chicago showed up because of their curiosity at the idea of pairing food with sake based on its aroma, flavor and texture. The gambit earned coverage in Beverly Hills at the Red O because of the seeming paradox of pairing sake with Mexican cuisine. A similar sensation was created at Andina in Portland, which paired its Peruvian-influenced offerings with sake, earning it valuable TV coverage.