So long and thanks for all the fish

On a recent trip to Seattle, we were waiting for someone in front of Pike Place Fish Market. This is a stall that has been selling fish for over 40 years. Whenever someone buys a fish, the staff put up a show, throwing the fish around and chanting. I can see how this could work as a marketing trick: people want to see the show, so they end up buying more fish. They might also tell their friends, who also visit, and so on.

Well, it seems that’s not quite how it is these days. While we were waiting there, for over twenty minutes, there was a huge crowd with cameras of all sorts (I counted at least eight cameras on just one side of the stall), taking aim and ready to shoot the action. However, nobody was actually buying any fish! And why should they? Just search YouTube to find over a hundred videos, some much better than you would have ever taken yourself. As for your friends, well, you can just send them that link.

Participatory, interactive advertising requires other tricks. Perhaps the customers should be allowed to throw the fish themselves. But that would be messy. Instead, you can put your wares on the web, and reach a much wider audience. Live webcam? Check. Motivational books and t-shirts? Check. Free delivery of fish to your hotel room? Check (hmm…). Delivery via UPS anywhere in the US? Check.