Marketing used to be pretty simple.
It was all about building channels, creating sales materials, launching great ads, and brand consistency. But then the Internet made things go all cattywompus, and marketing became all about views, memes, CRMs and SEOs.
Marketing inside this crazy new world is complicated and wonky, which is why I was so delighted to see a very clever bit of marketing that was plugged in the pop culture but didn't require any technology more complex than a felt tip pen.
I'm sure you've seen the tip jars places like Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts. Most of the time the contributions look rather sparse, even if they're labeled something like "college fund".
At my local Dunkin' Donuts, however, a clever kid behind the counter laid out two tip jars. One was labeled "Marvel" and the other "DC". And unlike most tip jars, these two were overflowing with enough cash to double the wages of the two kids working there.
The reference is to the long-standing competition between two comic book brands: Marvel, (Spiderman, The Hulk, and the Avengers) and DC (Batman, Superman, and the Suicide Squad.) Every nerd on the planet has an opinion about which franchise is better.
The controversy, of course, has nothing to do with coffee, but that's why the tip jars are so brilliant. A lot of nerds had walked into that Dunkin' Donuts, and hadn't been able to resist putting their money where their mouths were.
And yes, yours truly plunked a dollar down... on Marvel.
I wish I knew how to take this clever idea and apply it to the larger world of marketing and entrepreneurship. But I don't. But I do have a feeling that the kid who devised that tip jar strategy will be the Don Draper of the 2030s.
I also have a feeling, the next time I go in that Dunkin' Donuts the tip jars will be labeled "Star Trek" and "Star Wars". Because that tip jar strategy probably will put that kid all the way through grad school.