Friday, August 13, 2010

Marketing Lessons from Port Dover Friday 13

It’s Friday 13.
For Port Dover, a normally sleepy cottage and fishing village on the North shore of Lake Erie, Friday 13 is a bonanza. “Unlucky” Friday 13 has become the luckiest day for the businesses of Port Dover. It’s like the typical retailers’ Christmas & Boxing sales rolled into one.

Every Friday 13, depending on the time of the year and the weather, thousands or tens of thousands of people visit Port Dover to celebrate Friday 13. Because this is a sunny August 13, there might be over 100,000 celebrants on the streets of Port Dover. The population of Port Dover is 6,000.

Most of these pilgrims arrive by motorcycle. The streets become transformed into miles of parking lots for lines of thousands of motorcycles.

And these motorcycle riders bring and spend money – lots of it. They buy food, drink, accommodation and souvenirs. These are your weekend warrior motorcyclists. There are accountants, managers, entrepreneurs, retirees, mechanics, doctors, lawyers, teachers, administrators, executives, production workers, electricians, plumbers, truck drivers, politicians…

You get the picture. Good customers with money to spend looking for an experience. They just happen to ride and like motorcycles.

What can marketers learn from this phenomenon?

One Person Had an Idea And Made Phone Calls
This event started by chance in 1981 when 25 motorcycle riding friends got together at the Commercial Hotel in Port Dover for a few beers on November, Friday 13. They decided to meet again on the next Friday 13. Perhaps the beer influenced their enthusiasm for more. They had no other agenda. They were just friends getting together.

People Tell Friends About Good Experiences
The next meet there were more, then more again. The original organizer promoted the event around his network. He did this before FaceBook, Twitter and blogs. Friends told motorcycle riding friends about Friday 13 in Port Dover. At some point the event attracted the media. That captured more attention. The event hit what bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell calls the “Tipping Point”. It went viral. Almost nothing can stop it now.

The Date is Memorable
Friday 13 was already notorious because of the superstition associated with that date and the corresponding fear known as triskaidekaphobia. The string of “Friday the 13th” movies helped to anchor that date in people’s minds.

The superstition around the date might even have appealed to motorcycle riders because they know that they are fighting the odds against cars and trucks every time they are on the road. I think that there is a rebel in every motorcycle rider.

Controversy Grabs Attention
Motorcycles are controversial. Some people hate them. Some love them. Motorcyclists might be considered undesirables in some places. Think motorcycles and it’s easy to think about the criminal gangs – the one percenters - Hells Angles, Satan’s Choice and Outlaws. The date “Friday 13” is controversial. You can imagine that at some point the town council, business owners and residents of Port Dover had some controversial meetings about what to do about this event – “should they allow it or ban it?”

Marketing Lessons

Look at new ideas. Don’t discount the source of the idea or the lack of immediate profitability.

The best marketing is word of mouth. Look for under-satisfied communities. A community could be a group of people with a common interest, joy and/or pain.

It might take awhile for it to hit the tipping point and catch fire. If it’s a good idea and the conditions are right you will have a winner.

People want a unique experience. Give them that and they will reward you. They’ll buy, they buy again and they tell their friends.

Grab attention with controversy. Take a position. Embrace the rebels and you will have loyal fans. Be prepared to alienate dissenters.

George Torok
Marketing Author & Expert
Business Speaker


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