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Lessons From Grass Roots Selling": Part II: Brand Power

This is the second of a series of 3 blogs on Grass Roots Selling. 

Grassroots Lesson #2: Brand Power
After the spruiking I again got a job where I mixed with customers at the grass roots level.

I couldn’t think of a more challenging customer-base than the one I had next – small, screaming children with ice-cream dripping down their faces. My role?

I was to be a real-life Sonic the Hedgehog at shopping centres, hospitals and special events.

In those days (1994-96) Sega’s Sonic versus Ninttendo’s Mario was right up there with the Coke v Pepsi brand tussle. Video games were getting huge household penetration, and I was right at the grass roots.

A large blue outfit that reached temperatures of 45 degrees celsius became my second home. My new peers were the other character performers – various poor souls paid to dress up as Smurfs, Noddy or Donald Duck.

At any large shopping centre is a room where all the performers meet to get changed, receive CPR when they overheat, and flirt with each other. It turned out to be quite a steamy underworld of character performers. Keep that in mind next time you see a rather flushed Cinderella at Bluehaven!

I got a unique insight into the world of sales as viewed from the mouth of Sonic’s blue, spiky outfit. I first got a strong sense of the excitement that children have about brands during these sweaty hours. I got to meet kids who were dying in hospital and their last wish was to meet Sonic.

I mingled anonymously adults who were the victims of “pester power” and wanted to kill Sonic.

But most of all I remember the pain I felt suffering for the Sega brand.

Of course if you have 50% of the market with you in a head-to-head brand war, then it only stands to reason that 50% will be against you.

Painful memories included having hot soup poured into my shoes, a pen stabbed into my arm and my big black shiny nose swiped clear off my big blue face resulting in an urgent hedgehog nose-job.

When brands really work they are something to behold. They inspire outrageous customer behaviour at an almost religious level. The power of a successful brand translates into sales. Lots of them, and that was my second lesson from grass-roots selling.

Lesson from Grass Roots Selling #2:  The Power of the Brand.  I remembered this not only when I chose to work for subsequent big-brand companies (Cadbury’s, IBM, Monster) but to contribute to my individual brand.

See the others in the Lessons from Grass Roots Selling series in this Blog – Number 1 and Number 3.

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