Earlier this month, Christopher Angelo let his freak flag fly high when he climbed the iconic Jet Star roller coaster in Seaside Heights, N.J. and planted the American flag. His stunt intended to make a statement and call attention to Hurricane Sandy relief efforts at the Jersey Shore just a day after residents were finally permitted back to their Seaside homes.
Some of the most effective messaging relies heavily on broken conventions and unexpectedness. In the age of flash mobs, fake girlfriends and guerrilla marketing, it almost always takes creativity to stand out. Balance is important.
Consider Angelo. While we can all agree that his stunt was a little dangerous, his message made noise. It not only went viral because of its nature – people do stupid things every day – but because of the timeliness and clarity of his message. A longtime local institution, the Jet Star is perhaps the most iconic and impactful visual from the storm’s aftermath because it elegantly (and almost unbelievably) tells the story of how powerful and indiscriminate Mother Nature can be. It became a different story – one of patriotism, solidarity and perseverance – when Angelo planted the American flag atop that icon. And because it was just a little bit (or maybe a lot a bit) kooky, we all paid attention.
Now, we’re not literally suggesting that businesses can make an impact by scaling a dilapidated rollercoaster that’s partially submerged in the Atlantic Ocean in the height of winter, of course. You’ll likely land in handcuffs or a straightjacket. But it doesn’t hurt every now and then to do something different, break free from boring, pull a stunt. Inject elements of humor for extra points. Maybe it makes sense to hire celebrity doppelgangers at a trade show, rent a famous food truck to boost recruiting efforts, or if you’re feeling really ambitious, herd sheep into playing PONG.
The key is to make sure that your freak flag moments aren’t so unconventional that they only reflect creativity – they should be consistent with your brand as well. A flash mob at the local mall to the tune of “Call Me Maybe” (catchy as it might be) won’t likely do you any good, but a flash mob during lunch at an industry conference to a tune that ties with your product just might.
That freak flag is can be a powerful tool in moderate doses. Don’t be afraid to plant it proudly.