Netflix has delivered some pretty memorable entertainment over the years, but no character has made as big of an impact as Joe Exotic of “Tiger King” fame. The man with the golden mullet, despite his very long list of flaws and shortcomings, shimmied his way into the hearts of millions of viewers thanks to his over-the-top antics, hilarious one-liners, and odd infatuation with a woman named Carole Baskin, who we’re quite certain murdered her husband, but we digress.
Sentenced to decades in prison for his involvement in illegal activities, Joe Exotic roams his tiger zoo no more, but he has left a few genius-level marketing tactics in his wake – tactics that, if used correctly, may even be able to make a positive impact on your own business.
Here are a few lessons Joe Exotic has taught us about marketing for small businesses.
One of the first things we ask new brands we work with is: what makes you unique?
Your industry may be saturated, but surely there is one thing that sets you apart from the rest. In the case of the Tiger King, Joe Exotic had his tigers, and that is all he needed to attract oodles of visitors throughout the years.
Whether it’s a rich company history, an amazing product, a one-of-a-kind recipe, or even a customer service team that goes above and beyond, finding your angle means you’ve got something no one else does, and it’s time to use this to your advantage.
Throughout the course of owning a business, you must be prepared for the fact that one day chaos will ensue. For restaurants, maybe it’s the day a rogue cockroach crawls through your door and a customer snaps a photo and posts it to social media. For movie theaters, maybe it’s a time when the building’s power goes out and you’ve got hundreds of angry customers waiting to be let back in. Things happen, and they will happen, which is why it’s vital that you have a strong crisis management plan ready to be implemented at a moment’s notice.
In the case of the Tiger King, chaos came when one of the zoo employee’s arm was ripped off by a tiger. Literally, a tiger. But Joe had a plan in place.
Step one: be honest.
When faced with this tragic accident/PR nightmare, Joe didn’t shy away from the truth. He told customers there was an accident in which an employee lost his arm, then offered a refund or a rain check. It was as simple as that.
In the day and age of the internet, it’s tempting to push negativity under the rug, or worse — embellish the truth to save face. But we can all learn a lesson from Joe Exotic when it comes to being straightforward, owning up to our mistakes, and offering a solution. If you miss out on this crucial step, you might be doomed once that first misfortune finds you.
Establishing a bond with your customer outside of your regular services is important if you want to stay relevant in the long run. Any business with a social media account knows this. In a world of never-ending options, you must go beyond the call of duty and actively seek out ways to get that one-on-one time with your audience. For Joe Exotic, that meant a web series in which he aired his grievances for the entire world to see. This allowed him to attract a greater fan base, which resulted in increased sales for his tiger zoo.
And then there were the music videos. Cringe-worthy in all their glory, Joe Exotic’s videos not only showcased his angelic singing chops, but they also served as a means of entertaining his audience. Entertain your audience, and they’ll keep coming back for more. We cannot stress this point enough.
Life was better before we laid eyes on Joe Exotic condoms, but we’ll be damned if they weren’t a genius marketing ploy. During Joe’s gubernatorial bid, he made sure to have plenty of promo items to pass around to eager crowd goers, including prophylactics with his face splashed across them.
Was it disgusting? Yes.
Was it effective? Definitely.
With promo items typically consisting of bumper stickers, pens, buttons and keychains, condoms were a sure way to stand out. Be creative and intentional when it comes to your promotional items and you might reap the rewards in the end.
All businesses run into tough times at one point or another. This is all part of the journey of entrepreneurship. But when times get tough, you’ve got two options: abandon ship or pivot. Joe chose the latter when he chose to introduce a pizza place at his tiger zoo. Whether the pizza was actually homemade and delicious is up for debate, but the fact that Joe chose to invent an additional source of revenue when sales were lagging shows that all it takes is a little ingenuity to crawl your way back to the top.
If you’re ready to revisit your own marketing strategies, Triggers can help. We specialize in helping businesses of all sizes establish the digital presence they need to thrive. Whether through high-quality video, bold graphic design, a stunning website or strategic social media advertising, we’ve got the tools you need to take your business to the next level. Give us a call to learn more.