People Like Us… Like Schwag!

The cornerstone of successful retail marketing is simple.

When you break from branding, veer from visual merchandising, lose your leaflets and put off your promos, you come back to the basics: –

Free shit.

There’s nothing people want more than the chance to grab schwag.

In its thirty-year history, Forbidden Planet has seen every kind of geek – and an advertising campaign based on ‘something for nothing’ guaranteed that our nationwide birthday party greeted all of them. From Trooper to Pirate, Bored Bird to Lone Loon – they braved rain and roadworks and came down to see what they could seize.

Dedicated Opportunists were queuing on both mornings. There were Families, dads and kids together buying toys from Doctor Who. There were lifelong Collectors, less worried about the freebies, using their vouchers to secure big toys they’d been eyeing for months. There were Pirates, cheekily wondering if they’d wait an extra hour for the next batch of give-aways. There were Geek Girls, stocking up on their manga and Pro Geeks, disdaining the lesser-spotted high street geek and buying only the Limited Edition stuff from the San Diego Comicon.

Numbers of comics-readers were unchanged – but more people braved the Heart of the Department and returned, enthused, with a handful of free Batman badges and a shiny-new copy of Watchmen.

The Lone Loons were happy and harmless; the Cool Teens were everywhere and the Cosplayers were back – fabric-sodden but unstoppable.

Braving the weather, the Troopers from the 501st did, as ever, a storming job of creating energy – and much giggling embarrassment. Prevented from too much mischief by pavement barriers and soggy concrete, their spirits remained undampened – and their collective eye for a victim as sharp as ever,

And yes, even with wet armour, the ladies still can’t get enough.

And if the Trooper Groupies were many, then the Bored Birds were few – I did chuckle on seeing one of the girls of Vader’s Fist stocking up on her Stargate stuff while her husband rolled his eyes in mock-despair. Who says the missus can’t do this too?

A party may kick off with a fountain of freebies, but unless a retailer can put its mouth where its marketeering is, even generous goody bags are just so much biodegradable plastic.

When the bags have gone – what’s left?

I like making people happy – from the small child smiling at the balloon to the blushing girl cuddling the Trooper to the delighted hoarder with the bagful of new toys…

…seeing Thirty Years of Geek in one place, people spanning every type, archetype and (occasionally) stereotype is the ‘what’s left?’ question answered.

The cornerstone of successful retail marketing? It isn’t the company. It’s the customers.

Seems that Brian Bolland’s ‘People Like Us…’ brand from 1978 is still wonderfully true.

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