April 08, 2011

"Smoke signals" cartoon at NIGA 2011

One person who visited the Pechanga.net booth at NIGA 2011 was a guy hustling something called Powwow 90210. He was proud of having obtained the Powwow90210.com domain name. I had no idea what kind of service he was selling. Staging high-end powwows for gaming tribes? (Recall that 90210 is the zip code for Beverly Hills.)

No, it was some sort of marketing service using phone text messages. Which has nothing to do with powwows or 90210. His company name seems meaningless to me. It's like "Clockwork Orange" or "Jefferson Starship"--a colorful name that says nothing.

Anyway, he had what he thought was a great idea for marketing Powwow 90210 to gaming tribes: a cartoon drawn by Native artist depicting smoke signals. The first panel would show a cry for help sent via a smoke signal. The second panel would show a more desperate cry for help. And the third would show a responding smoke signal with the answer: Powwow 90210.

It sounded stereotypical to me, but I didn't say anything. Most people wouldn't notice or care about the stereotypes. But later I recalled that his intended audience was Indians. They might notice and care.

Therefore, I sent him the following e-mail:A thought on your cartoon: If it shows a typical 19th-century "brave" making smoke signals, some Indians might consider it offensive. Many of them didn't live on the Plains and didn't use smoke signals. And few of them like to be portrayed as relics of the distant past.

If you looked around the NIGA trade show floor, you didn't see many images of Indians in tipis, on horseback, in canoes, etc. And since you're trying to appeal to these people, to earn their business, you want to be sensitive to their concerns.

Here's an alternative that conveys the same message without stereotyping Indians:

PANEL 1: The cartoon shows two modern Indians--say a woman and a man. Each is holding a smartphone of some kind. The woman is addressing the man and looks worried.

WOMAN: We need to get the word out. We'll lose business if we don't.

MAN: But how? The moccasin telegraph? Smoke signals?

PANEL 2: Closeup of the woman as she types a text message.

WOMAN: No, with this new phone service.

TEXT: [Your first message]

PANEL 3: Closeup of the woman as she types another text message.

TEXT: [Your second message]

PANEL 4: The woman looks happy as she shows the man the text response.

WOMAN: And here's the answer!

TEXT: Powwow90210.com. Marketing communications via text messages. [Or whatever your company slogan is.]


I think this would go over much better than three panels of old-fashioned smoke signals. But it's up to you.

Rob Schmidt
Once again, I've solved a marketing problem better than the pros would've done it. Man, am I good at this, or what?

Let me know if I can solve your marketing problems for you. I'm available for consulting at a reasonable rate.

For more on the subject, see Pix of NIGA 2011 and "Selling Ice to Eskimos."

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