"Race them and they will come." I imagine that's how it started in the meeting.
The rules are simple at Petco's annual nationwide hamster ball derby, coming to a retail store near you on Saturday, March 31. Using hamster balls as their vehicles, hamsters will race down an eight-foot track in heats of four -- hopefully, but not necessarily, toward the finish line.
Last year's event was an incredible success, drawing more than 14,000 racing hamsters and their cheering human companions into Petco stores nationwide. Chances are pretty good that Petco sold a few bags of hamster food, and maybe even a treadmill or two, during the event.
Reading the press release got me thinking: can offbeat marketing really contribute to business success?
Financial types like me tend to be so focused on numbers (earnings growth, P/E ratios, and the like) that perhaps we're missing a critical component to business success: making it fun. When was the last time that an upbeat earnings forecast actually made you jump up and buy something? Can a chuckle, or even a downright belly laugh, be a driver of long-term multiple expansion? After all, selling stuff is what makes the best companies, well ... the best companies.
If you follow my logic here, which is probably a joke in itself, then which "funny" companies might make the cut in your priority sort? First on my list would have to be Geico with their double play of owning both the Gecko and Caveman commercials. You can't buy stock in Geico directly, but consider snapping up a few shares of Berkshire Hathaway
Next, you might give Capital One
Continuing the theme of animal humor, let's not leave out PetSmart
One caution, however. There are some industries where funny promotions are simply not a winning success strategy. Last year, the National Funeral Directors Association (NAFD) hosted a seminar at their annual convention on "The inner secrets of outrageous marketing." I don't know about you, but for me a buy-one-get-one-free promotion on caskets isn't funny, it's simply in bad taste.
Want to learn more about "funny money"? Take a look at:
Fool contributor Timothy M. Otte surveys the retail scene from Dallas. He dresses up his golden retriever every Christmas, and owns stock in Wal-Mart and Berkshire Hathaway. The Fool has a disclosure policy.