A Ridiculously Effective Marketing Technique from Two Chinese Potato Players

Russet potato

Potato image via Wikapedia

Playing a potato? I’m sure you (and I) never thought of a potato as an instrument.

Baked as a side dish, yes. Turned into french fries, absolutely. A basis for potato salad, sure. You can even make a science project that uses a potato as a power source for a lamp.

But not an instrument.

Same thing for carrots and leeks.

Music? Or soup?

Put those things together and they don’t really sound terribly musical. In fact, the first thing that comes to mind isn’t music, but soup.

It can be done though.

Nan Weidong and Nan Weiping, two brothers in China, have become known for just that. They drill holes in the vegetables, and tune them with an old electronics tuner.

The result: music.

Think different

Sure it sounds a bit odd, but it works.  In fact, they’ve  become very popular performers, and and earn up to $8,000 per show.

Being a musician, that’s ordinary. Playing the potato; that’s different.

They’ve found a way to clearly and absolutely differentiate themselves from every other musician on the planet. Who else plays the potato? Nobody.

Find your edge

Some call it an edge, others a “game-jumper”, still others a USP (unique selling proposition). Whatever you call it, it’s something that makes you stand out. and makes you different enough that people will talk about it.

If you have no musical talent (or vegetable carving skills), there are plenty of other ways to do this.

You could make something complicated really simple (like Gary Vaynerchuk did with wine – he talks about it like a layman, not like a wine snob). Or, you could do something slowly, or by hand, that most do very quickly or by machine.

Be worth talking about, and your fame will spread.  It might even spread all the way to China.

Why Your Marketing Needs More Chocolate

Hersheys Chocolate

Image via Wikipedia

Chocolate! The best food ever (closely followed by cheesecake, roast duck, and fettucine alfredo).   Chocolate was once very, very expensive.  Only the upper-classes could afford it.

Then Milton Hershey came along and figured out a way to make it cheaply.  His chocolate tasted different than the old world brands, but it was cheap.  People bought it and people ate it. It was “the chocolate” around here.

Chocolate goes upscale

Now, of course, we have Green & Blacks, Dagoba, imported Dutch chocolates, and Amazon to bring us single plantation chocolate, higher cocoa content chocolate, imported chocolate and on and on.  New kids on the block can distinguish themselves by being organic, completely over the top (Max Brenner, or, my favorite, Michel Cluizel – which flies chocolates in regularly from Paris).

Why chocolate on a marketing blog?

Well, one I have a craving for it.  But more importantly, it shows how companies in a crowded field, or an industry that was ordinary, can stand out and differentiate themselves. Change the packaging, change the contents, make it harder to find, easier to find….

Copy the chocolatiers and make your business stand out

How do you stand out from other designers or writers?  Are you faster?  Slower? Do you make your illustrations by hand with pen and ink? Or work wonders with Photoshop and Illustrator?

Not everyone wants to (or can) pay $5 for a chocolate bar.  Likewise, not everyone will appreciate the value of a hand-drawn one-of-a-kind blog header.  Some will (those are your tribe).

How do you stand out?

Share your strategy in the comments.  Or, ask for feedback.


When I was a kid, my dad would buy imported Dutch chocolate shaped like little wooden shoes.  Haven’t seen them in years.  Does anyone know where to find them in the US?

What’s Your Manifesto?

I was just reading a guest post on Problogger called “How to Use a Manifesto to Spread Your Blog’s Message.”  She said she wrote hers and made it a poster.  When I read that, I reflexively turned to look at my wall.  There’s a poster hanging on it.  I didn’t write the words, but it is a small business brand manifesto, and one I believe in.

Here it is:

We tend to think of branding and company manifestos as something more suited to large companies than small businesses.  But while you may not need a huge team of brand specialists to keep your colors, message, and logos in line you do need to know what your company stands for (and what it doesn’t).

Why have a small business company manifesto

It’s not just a way to spread the word, it’s a way to clarify your own thinking.  What do you stand for?  Stand against?  What will you do to get new business? What crosses the line?  Who is your “tribe”?

What are your company values?  Are you known for guaranteed super-speedy service? Or the company that gives back to the community?  Or are you known for personalized attention? Maybe you stand for super-luxury and exclusivity.  Or, maybe you’re egalitarian (the boss can’t make more than X percent of what employees earn).

Here’s the longer version (with cake!) – wrote that one myself.

That’s my thinking.  What’s yours?

Why You Need a “Why”: Marketing Tips From a Tow Truck

Tow truck on duty, Hinaus-Team Oy, Jyväskylä, ...

Image via Wikipedia

Have you found your why?  Do you you know why people should buy from you? And is that “why” directed at your potential customers, or only at your own needs?

A tow truck may not seem like an obvious marketing example. After all, when you need one, you want whoever can come quickly, and you don’t have a lot of time, or patience, to think about it much.

Find Your Why

The thing is, that even a tow truck company can stand out.  Or, not.

Here’s what I mean.

Driving down the highway this weekend (well, being a passenger), I spotted a tow truck that said, “All collisions and auto repair.”

It does state what it does.  But what it doesn’t do is tell anyone who sees the truck “why.”

“Why” you

Why choose that company over any other?  Do they specialize in a particular brand of car?  Or type of repair?  What makes them any different from the hundreds of other auto and collision businesses in Westchester or anywhere else?

Find a clear difference

There were no specific reasons. No “because.” No choose us because we specialize in Hondas, or choose us because we’ll loan you a car while we fix yours.

Is it worth spreading?

Another problem.  There was nothing particularly remarkable about them.  The truck, the signs, the service was just like every other tow truck I’d ever seen.  That “why” should not only be a reason, but (preferably) a great reason.  A reason so wonderful that it gets people talking about your company.

What if the tow truck company did something no other company does?  For example, they not only fixed your car, they cleaned and detailed it (no extra charge). Or maybe they leave a box of chocolates on the seat.

Focus on the customer

I saw another truck recently for a distributor of paper products (it looked like they sold to hotels and restaurants).  The truck had two calls to action, one of which was something like, “Call us and save.” Not exciting, but serviceable.  The other one was more problematic.  It said, “If you’re using someone else, we’re both losing money.”

I have no need for their products, but I don’t know why a potential customer should care whether the company was losing some business to their competitors.  If I’m running a hotel or a restaurant, I want to know that I will benefit from their products and prices.  I expect the vendor to make a profit, but that’s it.That was “remarkable” marketing, but in the wrong way!


How to Eliminate Your Competiton

Picture of the bathroom tiles in the Schulz Mu...

Image via Wikipedia

My brother and dad own (and rent) several apartment buildings. One of the bathrooms needed some new tiles, so my brother went to look for replacements.

The building is old and the color is discontinued. He finally found a guy who sells them… for $15 each.  And these are tiles that probably cost 25 cents each when new.

What’s going on here?

The guy has found a specialty. He travels all over the world, buying up discontinued, end-of-run, and leftover tiles. Then he ships them home to New York. If you really (really) want a specific tile, he’s THE guy. He’s created his own niche, which nobody else can match or compete with (at least not easily). He’s not just standing out from his competition – he has none.

What makes YOU different?