On campus. In Kearney, Nebraska. Those of us in marketing are relentless in our rush to the next big marketing tool or tactic. And you can’t blame us, really- things are changing so quickly, it’s difficult to stay on the curve, let alone ahead of it. You might have noticed, for example, that the other day, readers of a magazine were able to watch clips from TV programs in that magazine.
But at the other end of the spectrum, I was able to enjoy marketing at perhaps its purest and simplest. On Friday, the University of Nebraska at Kearney held, as part of its welcoming back students, the “Blue and Gold Community Showcase.”
It was a wonderful event that brought together students, faculty, and the local community. It featured food, music, fun activities for kids and families, and good, old grassroots marketing.
It didn’t depend on breakthrough technologies, exhaustive research, sophisticated media planning, or multi-layered promotional planning. Well, that is, if you don’t count making a basket to win a coupon for a free burrito. (I did, and will soon be visiting a place I didn’t know existed before. Isn’t that pretty effective marketing?)
There must have been a hundred tables manned by different student organizations, local businesses, charities, military units, and more. Each was there to present its story, as simply or as creatively as it wished, to its key target audience: this year’s student population at the university. No GRPs or TRPs, just EPBs–eyeballs passing by.
It was fascinating to me to see marketing reduced to its barest essence – and working quite well thank you, without “experts” like me getting in the way. Student groups looking for new members showed pictures of what they were involved in, and talked about it with enthusiasm. Hospitals, churches, and other local services announced their existence and availability for student use, and/or tried to recruit student volunteers or employees. And, of course, local businesses did what they could to catch the eye of a steady parade of potential regular customers with games, giveaways, and the ever-popular free food. Even the national chains felt a lot more local and personal with folks from the local franchise manning the booth.
The community and students shared in the fun. Big goofy mascots lumbered around the premises reminding everyone of local sports teams.
Social means people. And media are means of conveying messages. That includes voices, signs, and handshakes as surely as it does cable TV and E-blasts. All the big-time marketing gurus preach the value of customer relationships and how the best marketing communications are interactive and “one to one.” It all sounds pretty theoretical. Until, of course, you’re in Kearney, Nebraska on a Friday afternoon in late August. Sure looked real to me.