We’re all familiar with the typical forms of advertising that are out there: radio and TV commercials, magazine ads, billboards, ads on websites…but have you ever stopped to think that maybe there are ways that businesses can get people to notice them in less obvious ways? Lately I have started to realize that sometimes these types of things get me wondering about/excited about a business even more than the traditional ways. I’m talking about advertising that isn’t trying to be advertising–and I’m going to call it “passive advertising.” Here are some examples of what I’m talking about:
- Construction/Renovation–When there is construction going on of any kind, people driving or walking by can’t help but take notice. It’s exciting to watch it happen bit by bit, and it definitely inspires curiosity. People want to read the signs to figure out what business is going to be going in there. And when it finally opens, they are very likely to go in and check it out, because they are excited to see the work that has been done. This holds true for renovations to old buildings (people like to see that previously vacant spots are being filled up–it makes them think positive things about the business because it shows they are investing in bettering the area), as well as brand new construction.
- Outdoor Seating–This one really only applies to restaurants/cafes/bars. But when the weather starts getting a little bit nicer, people like to be out in it. Places that offer outdoor seating areas look all the more inviting for that reason. When you drive or walk by one of these places, and see the outdoor seating area full of people that appear to be having a good time, it makes you want to join them. You can’t help but think positive thoughts about that business for giving you a place to sit outside and enjoy yourself. And if it’s a nice enough day, you’d probably much rather go to one of those places than a place where you have to stay inside.
- Outdoor shopping area–Oftentimes you’ll see this in cities or towns that have rows of shops. But along the same lines as the outdoor seating area, I think it’s very inviting when stores put some merchandise out onto the sidewalks a little bit. It makes the line between outside the store and inside the store a bit more blurry, so that entering the store isn’t such a big step. You feel like you’re already partially in it just by walking by. And if the items are displayed in an attractive way, you will think good things about the store they’re coming from.
- What’s Going On “Behind the Curtain”–People like to be able to watch what goes on behind the scenes. It’s why they like going on tours at Hershey Park or The Cider Mill. Here’s another example of what I’m talking about (and a chance to tell a little story from my youth): I’m thinking back to when I used to go down to the Jersey shore with my family. There was this place called The Fudge Kitchen that was famous for their delicious fudge, and when you walked by their shop, you could look in and watch them making the fudge. They actually had a real person standing next to a bronze pot, twisting and twirling long ribbons of melted chocolate high up in the air and then back down into the pot using a big, long spoon. People walking by would always stop to watch for a couple minutes, and would take a sample from the person standing outside the door holding a little tray. Both of those things, but especially watching the person making the fudge right in front of you, made you want to go in and buy something. This concept, though it is easily explained using a food-related business, also holds true for other types of businesses. People like to be able to walk by, look inside a business, and see what’s going on in there. It’s interesting, intriguing, and in some ways it makes you trust the business more because you feel like they’re not hiding anything from you.
All of these things get people to think about patronizing a business without coming right out and saying “come patronize our business for reasons x, y, and z.” Actual advertising is still very important, and it can definitely be effective and necessary. But I’m just saying that businesses can and should think outside the box a little bit. They should take a second to ask themselves, “are there little things we could be doing to make our business look more interesting and inviting to people walking/driving by? Do we appear interesting and approachable?” It’s these little things, the methods of passive advertising, that plant the seeds in people’s minds, making an impression on them and inspiring curiosity about what a business does. And once you’ve got people thinking about your business in a positive way, I would say your advertising has accomplished about 3/4 of its purpose. The other 1/4? Well, that’s a whole other blog post. ;-)