Discovering your Gimmick
By Mark Macias
Everyone needs a gimmick, especially in New York City. If you want to stand out at a cocktail party or crowded lounge, you need something to push you above the crowd. Some people call that personality; others call it charisma. I like to call it a gimmick.
It’s no different with branding a product, business, or service. You need to discover what your gimmick is if you want to get noticed, regardless of what you are selling.
Now before the critics start mincing words and breaking down my statement with comments like, “That is shallow,” or “Execution beats style,” or “Hype loses to substance,” or “Consumers are smarter than that,”…yeah, yeah, yeah, I get it. And I agree with you.
But let’s take off that analytical, argumentative cap for a sec and discuss this idea in the gray world we live in today.
If you own a restaurant or bar or want your personality to get noticed, you’d better have a gimmick that separates you from the crowd. I like to call this branding.
Many entrepreneurs and business owners rightly assume that “gimmick” implies a form of forgery or scheme of deception. (Again, turn off the left brain and click on the right brain for the purpose of this article). A gimmick is a way to distinguish you from the crowd.
There are hundreds of public relations firms in the U.S., so my PR firm, MaciasPR, needs to stand out from the packed field. What’s my gimmick? I am a former journalist who understands intuitively and intimately how the media works. I’ve been inside (and run) those meetings where stories are approved and killed. I know what it takes to get a story on the news.
That is what separates me from other publicists. That is my gimmick.
It’s no different for your business. You need to discover what your gimmick is. If you don’t have one (or can’t identify one), then you are in trouble, because you have given consumers no reason to buy your product or visit your store.
This gimmick applies to everything. If you are an accountant, how are you branding your firm to stand out from the crowd? If you are a politician, why should we vote for you over the incumbent? If you are a restaurant, why should I order from your menu?
What was President Obama’s “gimmick” when he ran against Sen. John McCain? Barack Obama was the man with hope. I’m sure Mr. Obama believed it, but that was, in essence, a gimmick.
I was at a dive bar last week (called “Dive Bar 75”) when this gimmick concept was reinforced. The bar gives away chocolate and it is a brilliant idea. Chocolate gives women a serotonin rush and guys a sugar rush. What better combination is there to mix with alcohol?
I had dinner with friends last week and I shared my gimmick for a new restaurant. (Unfortunately, I can’t tell you that gimmick because I want to pursue it one day).
Everyone at the dinner table said they wanted to go to this restaurant, but guess what? The restaurant doesn’t exist yet, which makes the gimmick that much more powerful. My gimmick will be the reason why people visit my “future” restaurant
So if you are starting a business (and it doesn’t matter what you are selling), you’d better discover your gimmick before the doors are opened. If you need to brainstorm on a future gimmick, ask yourself what you can do to stand out from the crowd. Sure, it’s a simple question, but most lawyers, accountants, and medical doctors don’t acknowledge that question on day one.
Perhaps that is because they are choosing to use their left brain over their right brain. Now that I think about it, these are probably the same people who are arguing that a “gimmick” is shallow and will never work.
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Mark Macias is a former Executive Producer with WNBC, Senior Producer with WCBS and Special Projects Producer with NBC. He’s also the author of the communications book, Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media. Macias now consults small and large businesses on how to get publicity. You can read more on his firm at MaciasPR.