Walking down Piedmont Avenue in Oakland after lunch one afternoon, I noticed something out of place in the window of a store called "My Home Sweet Country Home". This almost-antique store had three pairs of brand-new running shoes there, along with a camera, books about the movies, and some china.
The little sign by the shoes said "size 10- 1/2 only". They were my size and my favorite brand, New Balance. I did not go in.
That is, until a week later when curiosity got the best of me and I went back. The owner, an older gentleman who told me he was the cousin of President Obama's press secretary, told me the story of the shoes.
He said a friend of his ordered a pair a month --- but never wore them. When there got to be too many, he put them in the store for sale. I bought a black pair for 25 bucks. Then I went back a month later and bought a grey pair.
There's something odd about finding something where you least expect it. I was skeptical at first. Were they forgeries? Factory seconds? Defective in some crucial way that I'll find out when I'm crossing a boulevard? I really don't know. They seem fine.
The transaction made me think of all the ads we see in all the wrong places. Ads for kitchen ranges in airline magazines. Travel ads in fashion magazines. Ads for face-lifts in city magazines. Are these where they should be?
From a demographic and psychographic point of view, they're probably right on target. But is teeth-whitening in our thoughts as we read about improving our golf game? I'd much rather follow the Willie Sutton strategy. Sutton was a notorious bank robber, and when he was asked why he robs banks, he said "Because that's where the money is".
Simple, but sensible. The money for golf clubs is in golf magazines. Sell a boat when they're thinking boats. Sell clothes when they're thinking fashion. Sell a hotel package when they're contemplating vacations.
Those New Balance shoes would've moved much faster for $15 more in a shoe store.
Media, like everything else in marketing, involves big helpings of common sense. Standing out can sometimes make things invisible.