As I watched the news this morning, I heard about the most spectacular display of self-promotion at a bang for your buck level that I never had before imagined. As I heard the main details that made the stunt so great mixed in with the “human element” B.S. that likely never happened, all I could say to myself was well played.
On Black Friday, a man went to the top level of the Mall of America and proceeded to throw 1,000 dollar bills over the railing and onto the shoppers and performers on the main level of the gigantic shopping center. Fittingly enough, the performers I mentioned made up a holiday choir that just happened to be singing “Let It Snow”. As he threw the cash over the railing he made his way to an escalator where he started to descend down while tossing the remaining bills overboard. Confused shoppers looked on in disbelief, smart shoppers started scooping up the money.
The man’s name is Serge Vorobyov. He just lost his car hauling business and is currently going through a divorce. Early reports tried to paint Serge as a courageous and down on his luck guy who wanted to perform a selfless and desperate act to win back his wife. Word also spread that he used the last $1,000 to his name to fund the stunt.
Well, once the guy started talking to more cameras it became evident that he really had no intention of winning back his wife. In fact, she knew about his plans. Also, by no means did he throw his last few remaining dollars away to strangers. His main line right now about the whole deal is that he wanted to do “some sort of pay it forward kind of thing.” Ummm…sure.
I question his stated motive because people who like to do, as he calls it, “pay it forward kind of thing(s)” usually do it anonymously (like this occurence that happened in Missoula this summer). Anonymously in that they don’t sit down for interviews, don’t splash the event across their Facebook wall, and definitely don’t stamp their YouTube address on every single dollar bill they throw over a railing. Yes, all one thousand of those bills directed the recipient to visit his YouTube page.
So while I call the media’s claim that he did it for love as pathetic and while I find his claim that he did it out of goodwill as shameful, I find the act in and of itself as genius.
In my mind, Serge pulled off one of the greatest and most successful guerrilla marketing stunts in modern history and he did it with himself as the sole benefactor! Sure $1,000 might seem like a lot to some people but in the world of online, print, and television ads it is peanuts. He took that cash and not only stretched it so that hundreds of people in a shopping mall could experience it and become exposed to his message but by catching the eye of the national media he also exposed the entire country to it. What a fun, creative, and most importantly, profitable way to market yourself.
Many of us work hard to establish our own personal brand. The cool/scary reality is that we are all capable of pulling off a stunt like Serge and receiving national acclaim. I mean if I wanted to I could rent a hot air balloon, take out all the money I have in the bank, float over a densely populated area, and start dropping $20 bills that had my blog URL written on it. I would probably get arrested but many would argue that the media attention, the huge spike in my blog readership, and the place in infamy that I would receive for the stunt would far outweigh the legal problems and the financial issues that I would incur. But it is definitely a risk; a type of risk that Serge was willing to take but that I am not.
And that is what separates Mr. Vorobyov from me and most of everyone else in this world. He had the guts to do something pretty crazy. Because of his willingness to take a big chance and because of the creative way in which he did it, I salute him. I just wish he didn’t lie about the reason for doing it. Don’t Blink.