Weather predictions notwithstanding, Groundhog Day is really a story about marketing—how one small town in Pennsylvania has been able to put itself on the map for more than 120 years with a tradition that started way back in 1887.
The proposal had to seem absolutely crazy at the time. Take a rodent the size of a large cat with a not-so-friendly disposition, put it in a hollowed out tree stump, and make a weather prediction based on whether or not it saw its shadow.
But the town of Punxsutawney took the idea and ran with it. They branded their town around Groundhog Day and used Phil as the face of their franchise.
Each year, they attract thousands of looky-loos and major news outlets who are willing to stand out in the cold at the crack of dawn to watch Phil emerge from his “winter slumber.”
All those tourists mean a merchandising bonanza for local businesses: food, hats, gloves, mugs, cards, stationary, jewelry, ornaments, signs, shirts, slippers, and even music. And that’s not to mention hotel and bed and breakfast stays.
On the long list of things you could choose to build a successful marketing campaign around, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess a rodent and a tree stump wouldn’t be in your top 350 million.
But the folks in Punxsutawney found a way to make it work, convincing thousands of people to make an annual pilgrimage to stand out in the cold to watch a rodent come out of a tree stump.
I think that deserves a tip of the top hat. After all, if you can market a groundhog it’s possible to market just about anything.
What marketing lessons did you take away from Groundhog Day? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
[Image: Flickr user Aaron Silvers]