How to Pull off a Gimmick

By: Shama Hyder

This post has been inspired by Seth Godin’s recent take on gimmicks. So, what’s a gimmick really? It’s a stunt that gets (or is supposed to get) people talking. It’s red apple sales, sweepstakes galore, and more recently-Starbucks driving cars around major cities with magnetic coffee cups that look like they are falling. People see the cup and come rushing to warn the driver. In return, they get a gift certificate for 5 bucks …and the truth.

While gimmicks may work well in the retail world, they seldom fly when it comes to service firms. Service is built on reputation, and gimmicks hurt that to some extent. So what can service providers do to get people talking but not be seen as “gimmicky” at the same time?

Seth mentions how toll free numbers in the 60’s were considered gimmicks. So were banks being open on Sundays. What were initially seen as ways to inflate customer base, actually turned out to serve customers. That’s the first way to pull of a gimmick…

1) Do something to IMPROVE service- Sure, people may brand it a gimmick at first glance. But eventually it will be seen as an improvement in service. One good example is Dr. Jay Parkinson. He calls himself a small town doctor with the newest technology. He only makes house calls, and you have to apply to be his patient. What a gimmick! Or…is it?

2) It must be a win-win- You have to increase profits and your clients have to be happier/better served. If either side looses, it’s not a gimmick. It’s a loss. Many Attorneys and law firms are now making the switch from a hourly rate to flat fees. Some may say it’s a complete gimmick to gain clients during a faltering economy. But clients of these firms are seeming to say otherwise. Here is one firm going this route.

3) It has to be different- It’s not really a gimmick if people expect it already. Adding a 1800 number is no longer a gimmick, neither is replying to clients within a 24 hour time frame. It has to be an unique attention getter. A couple of years ago I read about a firm who hired a “Chief Happiness Officer” to make sure their employees were happy. A gimmick to get publicity? Perhaps. But last I heard, the company didn’t have any vacancies.


She is the founder & CEO of Zen Media. She has been named the “Zen Master of Marketing” by Entrepreneur Magazine and the “Millennial Master of the Universe” by Forbes, Businessweek, and Inc have all recognized her as one of the Top 30 under 30 entrepreneurs in the field of marketing. Shama has built a global audience and is known for helping brands succeed in the digital age. She is a bestselling author, an international keynote speaker, and has been named one of LinkedIn’s Top 10 Voices in Marketing for four years in a row.



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