Is your business boring? Maybe it doesn’t have to be.
Case in point: Snowplows.
There’s not much fun in snowplows, right? They’re big, slow, bulky machines that only come out in horrible weather. “Ooh, fun — a snowplow!” said no one ever. But now even the snowplow business has found a way not to be boring.
Name That Snowplow
Numerous cities, most recently my hometown of Chicago, have succeeded in actually making snowplows fun.
The city held a contest to name some of its snowplows, and the public was ALL IN. Nearly 17,000 people voted among 50 finalists, and seven winners were announced last week. They are:
- Mrs. O’Leary’s Plow (paying homage to the lady — and her cow — who was blamed in folklore for starting the Great Chicago Fire of 1871)
- Da Plow (Go Bears!)
- Salter Payton (Go Bears again!)
- Sears Plower (named after the former world’s tallest skyscraper, now bearing a name that real Chicagoans ignore)
- Sleet Home Chicago (based on the song, “Sweet Home Chicago,” originally recorded by Robert Johnson and popularized in the ’80s hit movie, The Blues Brothers)
- Holy Plow! (a reference to Hall of Fame baseball broadcaster Harry Caray’s signature phrase)
- Jean Baptiste Point du Shovel (a reference to Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, recognized as the first non-indigenous settler and “founder” of Chicago)
Each of the snowplows will have its new name emblazoned on them, and will be equipped with GPS trackers so anyone on the Internet will know where they are at all times. Not at all a boring business, right?
The Cold Truth
Chicago was not the first, and likely not the last, to hold a contest to name its snowplows.
- Minnesota is down to 60 finalists after more than 10,000 votes, with gems like Better Call Salt, Sleetwood Mac, Bohemian Rhapsnowdy, Han Snowblo, and Aaron Brrrr, Sir on the ballot.
- Madison, Wisconsin had to one-up Minnesota with 61 finalists from among 1,200 names submitted. Residents will have a tough choice between names like Barbara Salters, Snowbi Wan Kenobi, Austin Plowers and Plowdy Doody.
- Ohio had 8 winners as voted on by residents, including CTRL-SALT-DELETE, The Blizzard of Oz, Plow Chick A Plow Wow, and You’re Killing Me Squalls.
- In Gillette, Wyoming, students at a local elementary school got to name a 50,000-pound snowplow. Their choice: S’no Big Deal. Another school chose Buzz Ice Clear, after the beloved Buzz Lightyear character in the Toy Story movies.
- Kansas City has named several snowplows after Kansas City Chiefs stars, and also has some classics like Betty Whiteout, Scoop Dogg, Big Leplowski, Plowabunga, Lord Coldemort, and Melton John.
You’re probably thinking of your own funny name for a snowplow right now, aren’t you? And therein lies the genius of this idea (though these contests are also said to raise winter safety awareness, which is another good thing).
WISER = No Boring Business
Snowplow contests combine two of the elements of the WISER methodology for creating word-of-mouth marketing using customer experience — Witty and Shareable — as outlined in my book, The Experience Maker. (The other components of WISER are Immersive, Extraordinary, and Responsive.)
They lean heavily on Witty, because let’s face it, those names are awesome. Some of them are downright laugh-out-loud hilarious, while all of them should at least elicit a knowing smile.
Witty is about being clever, using language to your advantage, and refusing to be boring.
They’re also extremely Shareable, as evidenced by how much participation each contest has received from residents. Not only do residents talk about the contest itself and the many finalists, they will also likely share photos or video of the metal beasts when they’re spotted in the wild.
Being Shareable doesn’t happen by accident. Shareable experiences are carefully and strategically crafted so that customers can’t help themselves but pull out their phones and capture the moment for posterity.
And keep in mind, folks, we’re (still) talking about snowplows.
What You Can Do To Not Have A Boring Business
So how can this apply to your business? Start with the belief that your business does not have to be boring, even if it currently seems that way. Most likely, your employees like having fun outside of work; why not bring some of that fun to work?
Here are some best practices and activities you can try:
- Encourage employees to find opportunities to be Witty in every customer communication point, from signage to letters to website landing pages. It’s even possible to make paying a bill into an experience.
- Invite customers to provide input, also known as user-generated content, in the form of silly product names, mascot ideas, words or images on packaging, or background images on a website.
- Look at other “fun” industries for inspiration, like amusement parks, concerts, retailers like LEGO and Sephora and Apple, or any place that hosts kids’ birthday parties. (Fun fact: One of the most successful planning meetings I ever held with a team was at Chuck E. Cheese.)
Remember: Snow long as you focus on your customers, and always plow through the details, you’ll never get a chilly reception.