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« A Negative Question to Create a Better Event | Main | Barnum & Hyping Up Your Event »

Leveraging Curiosity in Your Advertising - P.T. Barnum Style

I’m going to continue on my exploration of P.T. Barnum and his advertising strategies. In the excerpts below from ‘Art of Money Getting’ Barnum points out the curiosity one can invoke with advertising and how one man attracted huge media attention by leveraging an event.

But first on curiosity and advertising:

So a man who advertises at all must keep it up until the public know who and what he is, and what his business is, or else the money invested in advertising is lost.

Some men have a peculiar genius for writing a striking advertisement, one that will arrest the attention of the reader at first sight. This fact, of course, gives the advertiser a great advantage. Sometimes a man makes himself popular by an unique sign or a curious display in his window. Recently I observed a swing sign extending over the sidewalk in front of a store, on which was the inscription in plain letters,

"DON'T READ THE OTHER SIDE."

Of course I did, and so did everybody else, and I learned that the man had made an independence by first attracting the public to his business in that way and then using his customers well afterwards.

Can you think of a way to introduce curiosity into your advertising? It's important to remember that anything you write needs to hold your reader's attention.  Just because you find something interesting doesn't mean everyone else will follow suit.

Having a Golden Ticket
In 1850 Barnum brought over the Swedish Nightingale, Jenny Lind. Ironically Barnum never heard Ms. Lind sing, yet spent a ton of money upfront promoting and booking her US tour. Part of Barnum’s promotions included auctioning off the best seat in the house. One businesses man, Mr. Genin,  used the opportunity to catapult his business by being the first person to buy a Jenny Lind ticket for $225 in 1850. Because some people might be curious $225 Dollars US in 1850 is worth about $4,900 in 2008 dollars based on the CPI. Here's the excerpt . . .

Genin, the hatter, bought the first Jenny Lind ticket at auction for two hundred and twenty-five dollars, because he knew it would be a good advertisement for him. "Who is the bidder?" said the auctioneer, as he knocked down that ticket at Castle Garden. "Genin, the hatter," was the response. Here were thousands of people from the Fifth avenue, and from distant cities in the highest stations in life. "Who is `Genin,' the hatter?" they exclaimed. They had never heard of him before.

The next morning the newspapers and telegraph had circulated the facts from Maine to Texas, and from five to ten millions of people had read that the tickets sold at auction for Jenny Lind's first concert amounted to about twenty thousand dollars, and that a single ticket was sold at two hundred and twenty-five dollars, to "Genin, the hatter."
Men throughout the country involuntarily took off their hats to see if they had a "Genin" hat on their heads.

At a town in Iowa it was found that in the crowd around the post office, there was one man who had a "Genin" hat, and he showed it in triumph, although it was worn out and not worth two cents. "Why," one man exclaimed, "you have a real `Genin' hat; what a lucky fellow you are." Another man said, "Hang on to that hat, it will be a valuable heir-loom in your family." Still another man in the crowd who seemed to envy the possessor of this good fortune, said, "Come, give us all a chance; put it up at auction!" He did so, and it was sold as a keepsake for nine dollars and fifty cents!

What was the consequence to Mr. Genin? He sold ten thousand extra hats per annum, the first six years.
Nine-tenths of the purchasers bought of him, probably, out of curiosity, and many of them, finding that he gave them an equivalent for their money, became his regular customers. This novel advertisement first struck their attention, and then, as he made a good article, they came again.

Now I don't say that everybody should advertise as Mr. Genin did. But I say if a man has got goods for sale, and he don't advertise them in some way, the chances are that some day the sheriff will do it for him. Nor do I say that everybody must advertise in a newspaper, or indeed use "printers' ink" at all. On the contrary, although that article is indispensable in the majority of cases, yet doctors and clergymen, and sometimes lawyers and some others, can more effectually reach the public in some other manner. But it is obvious, they must be known in some way, else how could they be supported?

The example above might be over 150 years old - but what ideas can you borrow for the marketing of your own event? People are still willing to pay top dollar to have an extraordinary experience. What are you doing to command top dollar for a ticket to your event?

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