Advertising Lessons from an Angry Cow

Education & Training

Angry Cow

My mother- and father-in-law live in the "thumb" of Michigan, in a rural community.  Recently, my wife, kids and I drove up to their home to help them clear some dead trees and scrub off their land.  While we were there, my wife and I took a break to buy some supplies and ended up stopping at a meat store.

The store was pretty intriguing.  Aside from the usual fare (beef, chicken, pork, etc.) were exotic items including steaks made from antelope, python and kangaroo.  Perhaps the most interesting feature, however, wasn't the selection inside the store, but rather the giant, angry cow statue outside the store.

We've all seen gimmicks designed to draw attention to a retail location.  Sometimes it's a person in a costume or carrying a sandwich board, sometimes a searchlight or two, sometimes a large inflatable character like a gorilla or a dancing figure... But whatever it is, it's designed to attract attention for the pure sake of attention.  The point of the visual distraction is simply to catch the eye of passersby and hopefully get them to think about entering the store, car wash, etc., and nothing more.  The giant gorilla doesn’t have anything to do with tires, for example, and the person in a Statue of Liberty costume doesn’t really represent anything to do with tax preparation.

The angry cow is unique.  Why is he mad?  Well, if I had to venture a guess, it’s because the store he’s fronting sells cows to eat.  Imagine trying to be a pitchman for cannibals- I’d look unhappy, too!  The cow is an interesting case study from a marketing standpoint, because it caused me to wonder: Does its honesty as an attention-getter make a difference… and is its impact positive from a sales perspective?

I’m talking just about initial attention- Obviously honesty in business dealings themselves is crucial, as is quality.  If the meat store didn’t meet health codes or sell its products for its advertised prices, it wouldn’t matter what object or symbol it had out front.  But, specifically, does having an angry cow cause more or less customers to stop in? 

My employer, Stewart Title, has a sculpture in front of its headquarters in Houston depicting two people signing a real estate contract.  A logo based on the sculpture is on our business cards and represented in many of our offices.  Our HQ doesn’t necessarily look for foot traffic, but the sculpture does symbolize the essence of our business: completing real estate transactions.  It’s a source of pride for all of us.

Given that, I still don’t know whether the angry cow is good or bad from a marketing perspective, but I do know what I’d like the answer to be.  I’d like it to have a positive impact.  I’d like to think that it’s a good thing to use an honest symbol for a business that truly portrays what the business does.  Sitting in Michigan’s “thumb,’ the mad cow may not revolutionize advertising… but it provides something to think about while you chew your cud.  J

Joe Petrowsky
Mortgage Consultant, Right Trac Financial Group, Inc. NMLS # 2709 - Manchester, CT
Your Mortgage Consultant for Life

What a great post! That is certainly a great varity of meats and other stuff that this store has. Love your analogy, which makes great sense.

Make it a great week!

Jun 03, 2013 02:09 AM
marti garaughty - Montreal, QC
a highly caffeinated creative type...

garaughty, abstract art, graphic design, WordPress consultant

Jun 03, 2013 02:18 AM
Andrew Capelli
Troy, MI

Joe: Thank you!  It was an interesting place!  :)

Marti: Thank you so much for the feature!

Jun 03, 2013 02:23 AM
Ralph Janisch ABR CRS Broker
Janisch & Co. - Conroe, TX
Selling Northwest Houston to good people like you!

Interesting blog but I think it all goes back to "whatever captures attention".... Folks know in this case that its just fun advertising.

Jun 03, 2013 03:18 AM
Andrew Capelli
Troy, MI

Jeanne & Ralph: You are right- No matter whether there's any thought behind it, the cow is fun to look at!  :)

Jun 03, 2013 03:42 AM
Steven Cook
No Longer Processing Mortgages. - Tacoma, WA

Andrew -- around here a bull that size would be colored blue and have a large lumberjack standing next to him....

Jun 03, 2013 05:17 AM
Bryan Robertson
Los Altos, CA

Excellent message!  I think making a difference in marking always has to do with standing out. 




Jun 03, 2013 05:37 AM
Jill Sackler
Charles Rutenberg Realty Inc. 516-575-7500 - Long Beach, NY
LI South Shore Real Estate - Broker Associate

I appreciate you taking the time to see things from the cow's perspective. lol

Jun 03, 2013 10:00 AM
Andrew Capelli
Troy, MI

Steven: That would be true in Minnesota, too!  :)

Bryan: Thank you- I appreciate the feture!

Jill: Ha!  Would that be putting myself in someone else's hooves?  :)

Jun 03, 2013 11:42 PM
Donna Foerster
HomeSmart Realty Group - Parker, CO
Metro Denver Real Estate Assistant

Andrew~ I know the angry cow would capture my attention, however I'm not sure if I would venture inside the store or not, just based on the cow alone.

Jun 05, 2013 06:20 AM
Nancy Laswick
United Real Estate - Phoenix, AZ
Your REALTOR® For The Valley Of The Sun

Andrew, all I can say is that if I was a cow I wouldn't shop there! :-)

Jun 05, 2013 08:58 AM
Tom Snyder
Troy, MI
Tom Snyder

Good food for thought Andy.  I might say that its better for a mad cow to be displayed outside then for meat from a mad cow (as in mad cow disease) be displayed inside.  Tom

Jun 07, 2013 03:43 AM
Andrew Capelli
Troy, MI

Donna: I know what you mean!  :)

Nancy: I agree!  :)

Tom: Thanks for the feedback!  :)

Jun 08, 2013 11:32 PM
Regina P. Brown
MBA Broker Consultants - Carlsbad, CA
M.B.A., Broker, Instructor

Posting the photo of the angry cow in your blog also attracts attention.  It makes us want to read more.  That's one of the important things about marketing.  We should always be creative and think out of the box.  Thanks for sharing!

Jun 10, 2013 11:54 AM