Marketing Memoirs: The Big Deal

Marketing Memoirs: The Big Deal

A conversation about margaritas, an English pub, and cybersecurity: it’s not the start of a joke but the unlikely genesis of a groundbreaking marketing strategy.

I’m sitting at a bar when a middle-aged lady with a slightly perturbed face walks in, sits within hearing distance, and begins a conversation with the bartender.  

“What can I get you?”  

“Margarita on the rocks with a double shot, please.” 

“You got it.” The bartender whips up a margarita in a minute and places it in front of the lady. He notices a mildly distressed, absent look on her face. “You OK?”  

“Oh,” she answers reflexively, then, after taking a thought-filled second – because automatically replying with a glib ‘good’ is not in her nature – says, “I suppose I’m alright. Just a bit stressed. Work, you know.” 

The Big Deal

The bartender finished putting a pint in the dishwasher and placed both hands on the bar inviting her to share. The troubled heroine, noticing the gesture, continued: “There’s a big event my company is preparing for, and we waited a bit long on getting an exhibit design. There’s a bit of a rush and, after today’s meeting, none of the designs look good. I mean, they’re good, but they’re not what we were expecting. It’s not fitting the brand we’re building. So, we’re getting close to having to make a decision and nothing is resonating. Either the designs are too extravagant (and expensive) or look exactly like what everyone else is doing.” 

The bartender nodded intently. 

“And the thing is,” the woman said, growing more distraught, “it’s trying to get my boss to see why we need to be different. Look different. We’ve done the same little exhibit for the last three years, which was picked by the marketing director before me (this is my first year at my current company), and it’s just crap. So, when I get asked after the event (which I’m in charge of) about all the business we generated, all I can say is that we did about how I expected: not good.”  

“There’s no one on your team that agrees with you?” the bartender asked.

marketing memoirs

“No. Well, yeah, there is Jonathan. He understands we can’t use the same strategy, but the cost of going in a new direction worries him. I get the economy isn’t the greatest, but you can’t slash marketing budgets and expect to keep business resilient. You know it’s like if this bar were to remove all the stools or take down all the flags or memorabilia. People don’t come for the drinks, they come because they like the atmosphere, because it’s where their friends are, because they heard a joke about a priest, a minister, and a rabbi walking into a bar. This bar isn’t just selling drinks. It’s selling a feeling. An experience. And – ah, look at me. You’re so kind to listen to me blathering. I haven’t even taken a sip yet.”  

As the bartender assures her that he doesn’t mind, I look around the bar and notice the interior for what seems to me to be the first time. The atmosphere is decidedly English after the image of an old Oxford pub. The whole setting is dominated by wooden beams intersecting across the ceiling, shelves of leather-bound book sets, and aged oak countertops. I see tucked in a corner booth three old – as the Brits might say – chaps engaging in some intellectual matter. It just hit me that I’ve frequented this pub though I am not fond of ‘going out,’ being an extreme introvert. Why? I remember I first became acquainted with the place while on a date. My then girlfriend recommended it. She said it seemed like my kind of jam, but I was solely focused on her and took little notice. Thinking it through, I realize that since that day, whenever I finish a book, I come here and mull it over in my head over a pint of ale. It did have my kind of vibe, but not my favorite beer. Perhaps there is something about what the woman was saying – about it not being about the drinks but the experience. I shake my head to snap out of spacing to keep listening to her talk.  

“Oh well, I mean,” she looked around the bar to see if anyone else needed service. 

“You’re good. Keep going. I’m listening. I am going to start putting some stuff away,” the bartender reassured.  

She sighed and then continued in this way: “I just don’t know. I’m in marketing, if you haven’t already guessed. On one level all I do is get the word out that our company exists and solves a particular problem. That problem happens to be email scams. So, cybersecurity. Did you know 3.4 billion phishing emails are sent per day? Per day. Companies need to protect their accounts. Did you also know that 91% of cyberattacks start with email? I know of one attack that cost one company – I can’t say which – $2 million a day. A day.” She shakes her head. “So, yeah, we solve a problem, but that doesn’t mean people buy our solution. It’s also my job to demonstrate the value of our solution over -”  

The bartender interrupts her with a skeptical laugh and replies, “It seems incredibly valuable. Like, everyone needs it. How can it be hard to sell? What’s the big deal?”  

“Yes, the big deal is that there are competitors. Lots of them with similar products to ours. Everyone needs water, and yet there are 80 different water bottle brands in the US alone. The key is in branding. How can we show we’re different? How – and this is the real key, the other thing I have to do as a marketer – do we make something like cybersecurity fun?”  

Silence follows.  

I look at my near-empty glass of ale. Then something hit me. Hit me like a thunderbolt. I looked over at the woman’s margarita and did something entirely out of my comfort zone.  

“It looks like you’re phishing right now,” I said feebly. 

“Excuse me?” She said, confused.  

“I said it looks like you’re phishing right now.”  

She maintained a look of confusion.  

“Ordering a margarita in an English-style pub. Doesn’t add up.”  

“An English pub can have a good margarita.”  

“Sure, but it just doesn’t fit with the atmosphere of this place. Margaritas originated in Mexico and is supposed to be a refreshment on searing hot days. I’ve also had this place’s margaritas and…” I caught the eyes of the bartender, “and, well, they’re all right. But it’s obvious you haven’t been here before. You don’t belong in this inbox, so to speak.” 

I got blank stares.  

“Look,” the woman started, “who are you, Sherlock Holmes? What’s your point?”  

“Yes, Sherlock Holmes! That’s my point, maybe you can make cybersecurity fun – or at least learning about cybersecurity fun – by making prospects feel like Sherlock Holmes at the show. Have a screen displaying two kinds of emails and give attendees a giant toy magnifying glass as a pointer they use to point to the suspicious email – the one that doesn’t quite add up. They’ll undoubtedly get it wrong, and that’s where you come in about how your company detects the phishing email.”  

Again, blank stares.  

“Like a margarita in an English pub?”  

“Right. A regular would never order that here. It’s a scam – if you catch my meaning.”  

The bartender and woman joined in uproarious laughter. I quickly realized there’s a reason I’m not in marketing.  

“That’s pretty clever. Now it’s an idea,” she said after gaining control of herself. “Actually, that gives me another idea. Wait. No, I got it. Do you have a pen?” She stood up suddenly to the surprise of the bartender, grabbed a napkin, snatched the pen out of the bartender’s hand, and began furiously scribbling. When she was finished, she repeated “oh, this could be it” several times and left excitedly.  

She left a substantial tip on the table and her margarita untouched.  

The bar’s name is Thinker’s Tavern

Looking for the next big idea for your company’s next big event? The Trade Group can help you become a big deal on the show floor with an award-winning exhibit that highlights your strengths and attracts trade show attendees. Contact us here or give us a call at 972-734-8585. 

Cameron Wilkinson is a writer and editor in Dallas, TX. His writing for the events industry pairs with his interests in sales and marketing. He also holds a B.A. in English Literature from the University of North Texas.

Photo credit: Pexels

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