How I used zombies to boost my sales push

Brenton FoaleMarketing a start up is always a hard task, but Brenton Foale of independent rental store Popcorn Video managed to score a record day in revenue by using an unusual technique: the undead.

In order to promote the release of Hollywood film Zombieland, Foale decided to throw a so-called “Zombie March”. This quirk of pop culture, particularly popular among younger Australians, involves dressing up as zombies and walking for an extended period of time.

This simple event, marketed through Facebook, drew a crowd of over 500 people and significantly increased Foale’s customer base. He says businesses of all sizes need to market through Facebook if they want to achieve marketing success.

How did you start your business?

The store has been going almost a year. I unfortunately lost my job last year, and found I was struggling to get work. I was knocked back from about 1,000 job applications. I was a store manager for Blockbuster and Civic Video before that job, so I knew what I was doing, I was applying for management positions but wasn’t getting a look-in.

My partner saw an ad for an entrepreneur’s incentive scheme, run through the Chisholm Institute. I had always wanted to start a video store, I had 3,000 DVDs sitting in my living room. So we found a reasonably priced shopfront next to a few shops, and got started.

Did you try some marketing techniques before this?

We did try a few different things. We were approached to advertise in a police rugby union diary, but they didn’t tell us it was nation-wide so I didn’t get much of a return on that investment. We advertised in a small publication which goes out to coffee shops, did that for about four months and didn’t get anything from that either.

We sponsored a local high-school calendar, or year planner, and have a sizeable ad in there but haven’t had much business as a result of that.

How did the zombie march come about?

My assistant manager, he had mentioned a Zombie March to me once before. In Melbourne they do a CBD Zombie Shuffle, and I thought, we could do the same. When I knew that Zombieland was coming out, I figured we could get staff and whoever else to help promote the movie and at the same time promote the shop.

We plastered Facebook with it. I thought that would be a great way to do things, but not within our own page but on others as well. We looked up other groups and advertised on there, and we had a countdown in the shop window.

We made up Zombieland flyers, I had a young student distribute those for us on his way home from school. We used a whole bunch of different ways, but Facebook was the main one.

How many did you expect to turn up?

We certainly didn’t expect that many. We expected about 90 people, because that’s how many had confirmed on Facebook, and we didn’t really even expect that many to be honest. We told the police to expect about 150 people at absolute maximum.

The next thing I know, there are about 500 participants on the day dressed up as zombies on the Nepean highway. I thought it was going to get out of hand, but it was absolutely brilliant.
I had also contacted Sony Pictures Entertainment, who distributed Zombieland, and had asked them to send us a bunch of prizes, promotional material and so on. They sent us a few copies on DVD, a few on Blu-Ray, t-shirts, posters, and some other promotional material which really helped out.

What financial impact did this have?

The actual day of the march, we probably did about 200% of our previous record day of sales. Being a start up it isn’t a huge amount overall, but that 200% increase lead to our best-ever day in revenue.

We did an amazing trade day, and we still have customers coming in who joined up from that day, and they have told a number of their friends about it as well. It’s opened up our customer base.

What did this show you about social media, and Facebook?

I think social media is one of the most important ways to promote a business, any business. Technology like Facebook and so forth is how you market things nowadays, even for smaller businesses like us.

Emails are limited to a list and websites are limited as well, but with Facebook you can really reach out to anyone. We paid literally nothing for this, and we ended up getting our best day ever in revenue. All we had to do is promote it – it shows that for any sized business you can get a benefit by using social media.


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