A few months ago a friend of mine approached me about a business his wife worked at. The business was a local bookstore that was planning on expanding (not moving) into downtown Burlington, Vermont. When Borders closed its doors, it left our city center without a new bookstore. When Borders moved in, it helped doom a great local store, Chasmen and Benn.
The store owners Renee and Mike were looking for PR help to get the word out about the new Phoenix Bookstore. They also wanted to see if they could sell store memberships, kind of like a CSA or Farm Share for business, to support their expansion.
After speaking with them, they agreed to try something different. We would develop a focus for their store launch marketing that they could use in their store, in the media, and online.
Renee and Mike were very aware of the effect Amazon has on local bookstores and local stores in general. At their Essex, Vermont store, they’ve created an oasis in a shopping mall of outlet stores. When they talk about Amazon, let’s just say they’re not always so friendly.
We decided to explore how could leverage this. A David vs. Goliath strategy can be fun. What we found, though, was that the people we were trying to attract were a little uncomfortable with a confrontational approach. They wanted to support local stores, but they liked ordering lots of different things from Amazon.
Out of that was born our “A Little Less Amazon” approach with our tag line: “We’re not asking you to stop loving Amazon. We’re just asking you to love it a little less.”
We created a series of posters to take advantage of the store windows and attract attention. We developed print ads for our local papers since they reached our target audiences. We ran some Facebook ads and helped organize the grand opening.
We drove everything to either the store or a registration Website, JoinPhoenix.com. At the site you could sign up for membership and send a Dear Jeff (as opposed to a Dear John) e-mail to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos where you tried to let him down lightly.
Nate Orshan, the friend who originally connected me to the Phoenix Bookstore, wrote and performed a song at the grand opening “Get Along Amazon.” The last time Burlington saw Nate perform was when he provided some serious mojo to now Mayor Miro Weinberger.
Here’s the best part of this story: All of the people who worked on this took their payment as a membership. We knew that Renee and Mike didn’t have a lot of money to spend on marketing but we wanted to help in a unique way. We also wanted to put our money where our mouths were. Since we were asking people to sign up, we felt we should all be members too. So all of us put in lots of time without charging for anything except a membership.
Bill Drew of Cottage 10 was the Creative Director, Jason Routhier was Art Director, Dave Barron was Graphic Designer, Eric Olsen was Web Developer, Borealis PR did the PR and Leigh Samuels provided Business Strategy.
It just goes to show local business here in Vermont what you can do when you approach a challenge with a high level of talent and creativity.
And wouldn't you know it, only a few days went by before reporters from our hip, local weekly Seven Days spotted and wrote about the posters. It showed our "coupon" offer - bring in an Amazon box and get 25% off of your first book.