Whip It Out: Don’t Be Afraid To Show Them Your Monkey

“Never hold discussions with the monkey when the organ grinder is in the room.”

-Winston Churchill

We’ve all seen them, and if you haven’t, you’ve heard of them.  They are usually on street corners, we give them our spare change, and they are usually covered in dirt and wearing funny clothes.  I am talking about Organ Grinders and their pet monkeys, of course (why, what did you think?).

The 1933 black and white cartoon The Organ Grinder is a 7-minute trip down a New York street with an organ grinder and his pet monkey.  They play for people, collect tips and then hilarity ensues in a series of missteps and calamities.  It can be found on the DVD extras of the James Cagney film The Mayor of Hell, a part of the Warner Night at the Movies Series.  The point is not to try and sell you that film (I’m not even an affiliate for Amazon.com), but to give you a good mental image of an organ grinder and his monkey apart from simply a picture…

...okay, a picture too

Now what, you may ask, does this have to do with your social media marketing campaign?  When the organ grinder first began performing in New York, how many people do you think stopped to listen to a man crank out the same off-tempo tune that may or may not have been in key?  Not very many.  But what happened when he added a monkey to the act?  Finally, he was getting people’s attention and they would listen to his music, now the task was to improve the music.

How Big is Your Monkey?

I’m not advocating the perpetual use of gimmicks to get people to listen to you, although I’m sure it seems that way, but the first step to any good digital marketing campaign is to attract attention.  You HAVE to get people to look at you and then maybe they will listen to what you have to say.  Content is still king when it comes to retention and conversion, but you need a good monkey to get their eyeballs on you.

Everybody loves the “shiny new thing” and there is a danger to let your monkey wreak havoc on your operation, so don’t get carried away until your monkey is so big it’s a dancing bear (the mortality rate on organ grinders with bears was much higher than those with Capuchins).

I showed you my monkey with the title to this blog and I’m keeping a consistent theme throughout to draw you through the metaphor, but my content is always talking about improving your strategies.  Make sure your monkey is NOT your entire strategy.  Monkeys and typewriters may be able to write Shakespeare, but never put on in charge of your whole campaign.

Train Your Monkey

Make sure that he works for you and not the other way around.  When you see a tactic gaining its own momentum away from your goals and outcomes, it’s time to reel in the leash and re-evaluate the relationship/effectiveness of what you’re doing and how you’re using your monkey.

  • What is working in your current campaign and what needs improvement?
  • How are you utilizing your different monkeys for your overall goals?
  • Do you have too many monkeys to control?
  • Do we need an outside set of eyes to look at how we are working that can maybe see where our mistakes are?

Monkey is not a Four-Letter Word

Don’t be afraid of implementing something that you know will draw attention to you if you have helpful content and/or a good service to provide.  “Gimmick” always comes with a negative connotation in the marketing world today and for good reason.  By definition alone it is devious in nature while not adding any value to the product or service.  What I’m talking about aren’t gimmicks, but monkeys to attract people to your music.  Take note: Your music still has to be worth listening to.

Not All Monkeys Are Capuchins

Not every attraction is the same for every person.  What works for one target marketing might not work for yours, so if you see Starbucks do something unique, don’t simply replicate it for your dry-cleaner service (also, it’s not unique anymore if you just copy it, but that’s another blog entirely).

How can you use your own monkey:

  • Maybe utilize Foursquare or Gowalla and start a weekly gathering at your brick and mortar store and offer discounts to members who attend.
  • Crowdsource your fans on your Facebook site to come up with a new service of offer for your company.
  • Rent a giant wacky, arm-waving, inflatable tube man for outside your store (not really, that would fall into the purely gimmick category, just wanted to see if you were still paying attention)
  • Sponsor a Tweetup in the form of a Fun-Run, bike ride or family picnic.

Find what works best for your market and the goals of your marketing strategy and then go for it, whip it out and don’t be ashamed.

To close, I’ll refer back to the quote from Mr. Churchill.  While monkeys are great and can bring a lot of attention to you and your music, always try to bring people’s attention to you and your content.  Never be content to simply let people play with your monkey and never convert them to what you are doing.  Find ways to bring them in, sure, but don’t stop there; produce quality content and find ways to convince people to take up your torch and go along with you for the ride.

But it all starts with the monkey.


About Joey Strawn

Digital marketing sociologist and public relations specialist with experience on national and local campaigns with a love for film and the things it says about our culture and business. Joey is the Senior Social Media Strategist at ISM in Nashville, TN and is in the business of helping people and companies deal with the new universe of social media in their marketing and PR endeavors.
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