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