Marketing to Your Customers in the Back of a Taxicab


If you’ve tried the usual marketing techniques — business cards, pamphlets, T-shirts and flyers — but still aren’t seeing the results you’d like in increased customer traffic, then it’s time to change your marketing methods.

One way to change course is to design a campaign around customers’ unanticipated downtime — like the time someone spends sitting in traffic in the back of a taxicab (used effectively by companies like Vidicom).

In August, the New York Times published a story about why waiting in line is so tedious: Unoccupied time just feels longer to people than occupied time, according to researchers.

Over the years, organizations have found simple solutions to help waiting seem more palatable: Mirrors were placed next to elevators to give people something to do while waiting; an airport moved it’s baggage carousel farther away from the arrival gates so that passengers would spend more time walking and less time waiting; amusement parks like Disney World overestimated the wait times for rides so that guests were pleasantly surprised when they didn’t stand in line as long as they’d anticipated.

We’ve rounded up a few ideas for using your brand to improve people’s downtime and get your message across at the same time.

Mobilize Your Marketing

When you’re at a store or restaurant (or anywhere you have a few minutes of downtime), what’s the first thing you do? More than likely, you pull out your cell phone and start browsing, right?

According to a study by Pew Research Center,  42 percent of cell phone owners use their devices to stave off boredom (that figure jumps to 70 percent for the coveted 18-29 year old demographic). Take advantage of both the mobile technology and the downtime and find opportunities to grab potential customers’ attention.

The Marketing Sherpa cited two efforts by Pei Wei Asian Diner to reach out to waiting customers.

In the first, Jason Miller, Digital Content and Community Manager at P.F. Chang’s (parent company of Pei Wei Asian Diner), launched a mobile marketing campaign directed at customers waiting in line to order food. Signs were posted in view of waiting customers that offered a buy-one-get-one coupon via e-mail if the customer texted the word “caramel” and an e-mail address. Over the course of two weeks, the company got 20,000 e-mail opt-ins.

In a separate campaign, Miller took advantage of the downtime customers had while sitting at their tables waiting for food. “Call to action” placards were placed on each table encouraging patrons to vote for one of three entrees to be featured at a discount via text, Facebook or Twitter. That campaign drew 7,400 votes across the three platforms.

Make Waiting Fun

There are plenty of places out there where folks are stuck with nothing to do but twiddle their thumbs. Your job is to seek those places out and bring on the fun.

Airports are finding ways to entertain waiting passengers: Milwaukee’s Mitchell Airport put a ping-pong table outside of security, Dallas has yoga classes, Charlotte, N.C. has rocking chairs, and over the years Munich has offered everything from ice skating to beach volleyball to surfing.

How can you take advantage of an airport full of bored travelers? To start with, you could sponsor airport entertainment — slap your company logo on some yoga mats or offer free hot chocolate to airport ice skaters who text you their e-mail address. Or you could take it a step further and be the entertainment — building out an app that sends travelers on an airport scavenger hunt with prizes, coupons or deals that get them back to your business as the prize.

At South by Southwest, Clik set up a giant video screen to demonstrate their app which turns a mobile device into a remote control. People passing by could download the app then select the next music video to play on the screen. More tech-savvy businesses could entertain folks waiting in elevators or in waiting rooms with this interactive technology.

Boldly Go Where No Brand Has Gone Before

There are countless examples of extreme ad placement — designed to grab people’s attention where they least expect it.

BusinessInsider.com rounded up some weirdly effective places to advertise, including in bathroom stalls, on airline tray tables, on air-sickness bags, and even on people. What’s more, cash-straped municipalities looking for ways to raise revenue are offering advertising opportunities to interested folks. Police cars in Toledo, Ohio will feature the logos and phone numbers of sponsors, according to Entrepreneur.com.

We challenge you to develop your next great marketing campaign in one of those boring spots where your potential customers are unoccupied. To help get your wheels spinning, we rounded up a list of potential  opportunities you have never thought about:

  • Taxicab
  • Elevators
  • Escalators
  • Airplanes
  • Restrooms
  • Waiting rooms
  • Gas pumps
  • Bus stops
  • Gym
  • Deli
  • Restaurants
  • Subway and bus stations
  • Amusement parks
  • Parks
  • DMV
  • Post office
  • Laundromats

Photo courtesy of Stock.Xchng


Business.com Editorial Staff

Business.com Editorial Staff

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The Business.com Editorial Staff writes on topics relevant to small and medium-sized business (SMB) owners. Posts cover best practices, top tips, and studies that deliver insights specific to SMBs.

Our team has backgrounds in journalism, English, philosophy, marketing, entrepreneurship and management, providing us the opportunity to share unique viewpoints on all things affecting small and medium-sized businesses.

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2 Responses to Marketing to Your Customers in the Back of a Taxicab

  1. Good article. No doubt creative solutions like those you suggested are needed in this economy. I particularly liked the examples of extreme ad placement.

    Thanks for the info.

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