On the first below-60 degree day of fall 2012 here in San Jose, a traffic-inducing drizzle persisted creating hazardous highway conditions. Subsequently, I tended to local errands. The quiet roads allowed for introspection, rather than road rage. As I approached the light to turn into an unremarkable strip mall...there he waved.
For in the drizzle and gloom Mr. Pickles glowed. Indeed, he looked thrilled about the grand opening of the deli that bares his name. Mr. Pickles, I thought. How sadly anachronistic. He doubled over shaking his shoulders in mock mime laughter, a giant, grinning pickle encased in a sandwich board hawking hearty heroes. At the light I looked back and shrugged, and said to no one in particular that at least Mr. Pickles had a job.
And then it dawned on me. We, the high and mightly proclaimers of all-things-digital, of social networks and Adwords, of etail and viral videos, have discounted the brick and mortar local marketing as beneath anyone's preciously short attention span. Had we pronounced it dead a bit too soon? Alive and well and waving at you from the corner, behold sandwich board marketing tactics, effective since the dawning of advertising itself.
Mr. Pickles worked. Would I have noted that deli otherwise? Probably not. Would I have seen the weak stream of tweets or the Facebook page and clicked "like?" Most undoubtedly the answer is a resounding no.
So thanks Mr. Pickles, you ray of sunlight between the clouds, golden as mustard on a hoagy, you reminded me that grass roots are on my front lawn. As we eat a late dinner of crepes and tea with honey in our wondrously digitized home, my thoughts turn to the Big Grinning Pickle, a one man picket line, a stroke of marketing genius.
I will eat at Mr. Pickle's Deli in Campbell, CA. And that's viral marketing.