I know it’s not happening until 19 September, but I’m already getting excited about International Talk Like a Pirate Day.
It’s something I’ve been loosely celebrating for the past few years (I’m fascinated by anything piratey), but this year I’m thinking about it a lot sooner than usual. And you’d be forgiven for wondering what talking like a pirate has to do with marketing. Well, you’d be surprised…
Marketing strategies built around sporting events are nothing new – just look at all the discussion that’s going on in UK businesses at the moment about the potential opportunities that might crop up from London hosting the Olympic Games in 2012, and that’s four years away! Then there’s the various world cups (football, cricket, rugby, to name but a few) – from sponsorship to merchandise, these events present a wealth of opportunities to just about every type of organisation.
Then, of course, there are the other annual events that everyone from supermarkets and florists to restaurants and hotels can use to their advantage; Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Hallowe’en – pretty much every organisation can find a way to profit from these events, one way or another.
And then there are the obscure little events like International Talk Like a Pirate Day (of course, there are hundreds of other events covering just about every subject under the sun, but I’m especially fond of pirates, so pirates it is).
So here’s an idea: if you’re in the hospitality trade and are looking for ways to drum up a bit of excitement once the tourist season has passed, how about hosting a ticketed party with a pirate theme? Even if you don’t run a pub, restaurant or hotel, you could host a pirate party for staff and customers, and raise a bit of cash for charity – it might make a nice local newspaper story, as well as raising money for a needy cause. If a party is beyond your budget, you could get your friends and colleagues to sponsor you to talk like a pirate all day; when I worked for SecureTrading, I and one of my colleagues did this and the company matched whatever we’d collected, so we ended up donating a few hundred quid to a local charity that helps AIDS victims in Africa. Lots of fun, but all the “arrrrrrs” left us with very sore throats by the end of the day!
If you’re going to have a themed event or party, you’ll need to get the props right. For a start, you’ll need to make sure you have the costumes right; for piratey garb, try tobeapirate.com and fancydress.com. You’ll need accessories too, like eye patches, scarves, wooden legs, and perhaps even a treasure chest handbag. Some piratey jewellery wouldn’t go amiss either.
Once the costumes are sorted, you’ll need to get the music right. Try making a nautically-themed mix CD: you could include the Captain Pugwash theme, Sailing by Rod Stewart, Sail Away by David Gray, and even this year’s Latvian Eurovision entry, Wolves of the Sea (see video, below).
This chain bottle holder would look just as good holding a bottle of rum as it does holding a bottle of wine, and you could turn empty wine bottles into atmospheric lighting with these wine cork candles.
If you want to get really piratey, nothing quite says “deranged maritime criminal” quite so well as toasting body parts (well, sausages and chops) over an open flame on the end of a BBQ sword (if there are any minor injuries, you might want to consider pirate plasters).
You’ll also want to think about some nautical games. You could try hiding a captain badge under someone’s napkin, and whoever gets the badge becomes captain and has to pay forfeits to avoid mutiny. Or, get out the paddling pool and have your guests racing remote control boats (or jetskis, for a more modern twist) to win prizes.
Finally, don’t forget to find out your pirate name… try the “What’s my pirate name?” quiz, or if you’re too impatient to answer the questions there’s the simple random pirate name generator; these dub me “Mad Bess Flint” and “Sea Monkey Prunella” respectively.
As you’ll have gathered by now, although I do talk a lot about pirates in this post, they’re only really here to illustrate a point, which is that it doesn’t hurt to use novel and unusual promotional techniques occasionally. A little imagination can go a long way in helping you engage with your customers and build a bit of a buzz around your organisation, so try thinking outside the box every now and then and have some fun with your marketing.