In this guest post, young marketer Ryan Godfrey Johnson (Pictured below) – who says “my whole life is a marketing strategy” – reveals how he turned himself into a human advertising campaign for Mardi Gras last Saturday night…
I have always loved dressing up for costume parties, hallmark holidays and special events. For Halloween last year, I dressed up as my own interpretation of everyone’s favourite Swedish flat pack (and meatball) conglomerate, RYKEA.
The year before that, a mermaid. For this year’s Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade, I had a costume idea that that would outshine all of them. An idea that would demonstrate not only my passion for cute and far out costumes, but also my love for marketing strategies, personal branding and social media.
For Mardi Gras 2017, I would wear a vibrant yellow crop top, emblazoned with my own Snapchat Snapcode. Any Snapchatter who could see my shirt would simply have to point their phone at me and hold their finger down on the Snapcode. Snapchat’s image recognition software would then recognise my code and the user would be prompted to ‘friend’ me on the platform.
I often tell people that “my whole life is a marketing strategy” because I live and breathe marketing. It has been my passion since I was nine year’s old and I set up my first lemonade stand outside my house, branding it as the RY-freshment Station. My Mardi Gras outfit perfectly embodied my passion.
I was hopeful that the personal branding stunt would lift my profile as a marketing professional. I would be an interactive, scannable advertising campaign for myself, designed to prove that if I could sell me, I could do the same for brands and potentially my own clients one day.
We hear a lot about the negative impacts that social media has on our relationships and our ability to socialise and communicate in the real world. The outfit would allow me to challenge these ideas and demonstrate the reverse — that it can connect like-minded strangers and foster new relationships between people who might have otherwise never spoken.
Now any good marketing campaign starts with clearly defined goals and objectives. So in order to accurately measure the success of my campaign, I decided from the outset that my KPI was to boost my Snapchat following by 50 per cent. With roughly 500 Snapchat followers pre-Mardi Gras, that would require 250 individuals to scan my code. Ambitious? You bet. Achievable? Potentially. But I could not have picked a better night to execute my strategy.
The annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade, born from a single night of political protest in 1978, brings the city to a standstill with thousands lining the streets in support of equality and pride. It is a dazzling spectacle of glitter and self-expression.
Before I even began, I knew that asking people to follow my Snapchat was not enough. I would need to deliver valuable, engaging content to my new followers in return for them friending me on the platform. I set out to spend the night documenting as much of my Mardi Gras experience as my iPhone battery (and two external chargers) would allow. I would have to broadcast countless snaps to my story for my new followers to consume. Content, as they say, is king.
My ‘personal advertising campaign’ instantly began garnering impressions from the moment I stepped outside the hotel. I was approached by a group of young girls who were fascinated. “Is this your Snapcode? Can I add you from this?!” My phone buzzed with notifications. It was surreal. They turned out to be visiting from Japan, so my first crop of new followers were international! I hadn’t anticipated that I might be making new friends from all over the world.
We parted ways with my new Japanese friends and made our way to Oxford Street, which was already lined with thousands of individuals who had arrived early to secure a spot to watch the parade. My friends and I on the other hand forfeited finding a prime position to view the floats. After all, I had a marketing strategy to execute.
By the time the march got underway and the floats started pouring down Oxford Street, my Snapchat was blowing up. I was constantly being stopped by swarms of people from all walks of life eager to get a selfie with me, scan my code and friend me on Snapchat. “This is what pop stars must feel like!” I imagined.
The night ended with a 5AM Uber ride back to our hotel. Our driver, who was not only kind enough to offer us water and Mentos, even asked if he could scan my code before we left the car. This would be my last follower of the night. “Five stars for you!” I told him. With his add, my phone went blank and the “connect to charge” icon dimly filled the screen. With two dead chargers and a drained iPhone, I knew I had given this strange project everything I had.
The campaign was a runaway success! I eclipsed my goal of 250 followers by 533, successfully gaining 783 new friends on the platform. My story was watched over 1,000 times — a pretty impressive feat and solid return on my $80 investment (this was the cost of the shirt and screenprinting) if you ask me. The concept was even picked up by news.com.au and Gay Star News!
This bizarre personal branding strategy was bold, for sure. But as Seth Godin once said, “Average is for losers.”