I noticed two things. It was the guys in suits who made up most of people standing in line. These were either management or marketing/sales people. While on the phone, these guys were frequently fishing around in their pocket for a pen and scratching notes on scraps of paper or in the margin on a handout.
What I asked my boss to fund was a bunch of pens. Pretty cool pens but nothing over the top. The pens had a window in them that would show a different message each time you clicked the pen. I had six short sentences to get my message across. Four of the messages promoted FireWire and two of them promoted my company. You see, we were winning the battle with the engineers. They loved FireWire because it was (and still is) a killer technology. Where we were missing the boat was with management and product marketers; the guys who controlled the purse strings and who decided what technology was designed into new products. I’d just put 6 sentences in their pockets to convince them to come to us for more information on FireWire. All this at 5% the cost of running a print ad.
My boss was stunned. Pens. The single most common giveaway. Everyone had a pen from a seminar, trade show, or salesman sitting in their desk drying out. Why not just give out rubber bands and paper clips or little notepads? What could be more boring?
But that was only one third of my plan…. and it got worse before it got better. What I said next almost had him in tears.