Friday, March 7, 2014

Old School Marketing: What did we do before the internet?

In a job interview recently, my interviewer was running through that predictable list of questions while looking over my resume. When she reached, the Sugoi part from many years ago, she asked, "What was your greatest accomplishment at Sugoi?". I had to think about that for a second, as it was a while ago - pre-internet actually, and that's where the story starts to get interesting.

Again, keep in mind, this is, while not exactly pre-internet, but in 1997, the internet was the briefest shadow of what it is now. When I do think back to that time, and as I was starting to tell that story of a significant accomplishment at Sugoi, I had to be careful to qualify my comments, that it was pre-internet, and that the woman interviewing me, most likely was not even in the work-force then, and had only been in the working world with the internet more as we know it today! Good heavens - I am sounding old!

The story seems rather quaint now when I think about it. Sugoi had just launched their run line in 1996/97. As the Marketing and Communications Manager, I was tasked with raising awareness of the Sugoi brand in the running market. No internet. No social media. The only option for advertising of any significance to consumers at the time was Runner's World Magazine (RW). We could not afford ad buys, so I took a different approach - try to get exposure, through product reviews, and the holy grail, getting a cover-shot of some Sugoi product. I made it a goal to get a RW cover-shot of some Sugoi product within a year!

I worked on developing a close relationship with the key apparel review people at RW, as well as the main Photo Editor - always making sure that we had Sugoi product submitted for on-going apparel reviews. I did the same for all of the known Freelance photographers, who submitted photos regularly to RW for use - making sure that they had current Sugoi product in their bags to use on various photo-shoot work. I stayed in close contact with all of these people and made sure that whenever there was an opportunity to meet, at a Trade Show or other event, I made sure to take advantage of the opportunity, briefing them on the latest developments at Sugoi and product up-dates.

I got a phone call one day, from one of the freelance photographers - he was shooting a runner for what he was hoping might lead to a cover-shot for RW. Right away, I shipped via FedEx, a selection of Sugoi apparel to Colorado. The shoot went well. The images looked fantastic. I reached out to the Photo Editor and she did indeed, confirm that some of those shots taken by the photographer in Colorado, where in contention for the cover of the next issue of RW that they were publishing. She liked the overall feel of the shots, and she said the Sugoi Technifine T-shirt, "Really popped"! Wow!

A few weeks went by, and then I got THE CALL - they were going to use one of the Sugoi shots for the cover of Runner's World! That was just about a year, to the day, that I first hatched the plan.

I believe the circulation of RW at the time was just over 500,000. With no other options available for exposure this was HUGE for us. The Sugoi product had been getting great reviews. However, our Sales Reps on the road, had been struggling to get doors open and buy-in, in key run specialty shops around North America. This changed everything - the Reps now went to those retailers, with a copy of that issue of RW in their hand with Sugoi product prominantly on the cover, and suddenly there was interest, and a conversation. We signed up more dealers. Orders increased. A small part, to the great growth that the company had in 4 years, nearly doubling it's overall sales.

Today the marking and promotional opportunities for a company in this space are much wider and deeper. There are a lot of different options and channels to get the message out there. Back then, pre-internet, was a simpler time in some ways, but much more limiting. After a lot of hard work, you often only got the one shot! A cover shot!

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