When I was 12, I had my first foray into graffiti, which largely included me sloppily writing my name with a Mean Streak marker in McDonald’s bathrooms and bus benches. Overtime, some of my other terrible graffiti friends showed me that you can also “get up” (getting your name up everywhere) by using postal labels from the USPS and “My Name is” badges from any random office and sticking them on as many visible surfaces as possible.
Years later, when I began playing in bands, I found this practice to be useful when we would order much better-looking stickers and put them all over whichever neighborhood we were playing in. Yes, this is vandalism, but it did make our band visible which, in turn, put us on several good shows for our two-year run.
For my current social marketing consultation company, I took a very similar approach, minus the outright vandalism. I made 11×17 handbills and stapled them to poles that advertised local shows. My logo is a simple white X on a black background, an homage to the straight edge identity. It stood out amongst the messy handbills that were usually posted on these poles. The other part of this is that I would only hit neighborhoods that had small businesses, since that’s my target market.
Don’t do this because it’s a horrible way to promote yourself
Taking another page from my band and graffiti days, I printed up nice stickers, had buttons made, and dropped them off at these local businesses. By and large, they’ve worked well. Within the first day of putting up handbills, I was contacted by other freelancers who needed help with their social presence. After piling buttons at a local record store, I found the employees pinning them to their shirts. Branding via merch definitely works.
WHAT CAN BUSINESSES LEARN FROM THIS
At its core, self-marketing is all about visibility. As I stated in the previous paragraphs, “getting up” is the best thing that you can do. As a social media marketer, I believe in the power of social platforms and its ability to connect with your audience, however, these campaigns do not happen overnight. Viral content comes with a lot of thought and strategy. A digital presence can be strong, but it’s no substitution for getting your name out to where people will see it on their way to work, home, etc. When they work in tandem, the outcome can be incredibly successful — physical assets will put more eyes on your social platforms.
When people throw around phrases such as “forward thinking” or “thought leaders,” it’s more than just trying to create the next Keyboard Cat or what have you. You have to look at the big picture and be able to answer something very simple: If I do this, where will I be in the next six months to a year?
Use this when you want to sound fancy, but don’t use it if you can’t back it up.
For me, I’ve dug into my past in both as a band member and a would-be graffiti writer and used my learnings to make my brand visible on a street level. To paraphrase tattoo artist, Tommy Montoya, you have to be ‘hood famous first. My brand caters to local businesses and freelancers, so naturally, that’s where I do the most physical advertising. This is no different from when Nike was pushing their SB skate shoe line (as referenced in Lesson 2) and hit skate parks around the country.
This may seem like a very rudimentary method, but it’s the very base of brand recognition: leaving your potential audience with something to remember you by. Whether that’s a sticker, a button, or a shirt, you’ve left that indelible mark that leaves them with a lasting impression of your product.