Gorilla Marketing

I like to make things when my books come out — a kind of stress-relieving, countdown activity. And I also like to send my publishing team little gifts at relevant times of year. Since Potty Animals was coming out right after the holidays in 2010, I came up with a low-effort but fun project that turned out to be a great promo tool.

I had been brainstorming promotion ideas for the book. One of my pie-in-the-sky ideas was guerrilla marketing: place Potty Animal hand soap pumps in bookstore bathrooms, in honor of Wilbur, who would not wash his hands. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that most of the potty animals lent themselves to some kind of hygiene product. Ta-da! I hatched a plan.

I went shopping for products that fit the bill, scanned in some pages from the book and used Photoshop to make some product labels. And this is what I came up with:

Obviously, I had a lot of fun. I intended to edit some of the items out of the collection, but I couldn’t bear to. Instead I packed the whole batch into a large cardboard box and sent it off to Sterling, without explanation. It seemed funnier that way. Then I waited. I resisted the urge to check with UPS to see when it was delivered, because I knew it could hit the office at a busy time and not be opened for days.

I was at an office holiday party for my other job when I got a call from a number I didn’t recognize on my cell phone. It was my editor, Meredith. She was laughing so hard she could hardly speak. It just so happened that the package arrived at a perfect time since people from editorial and marketing happened to be there.

As it turned out, Sterling decided to make up bottles of hand sanitizer with Potty Anmals labels on them to disrtibute at book events! I didn’t expect the publisher to use any of my ideas, even though I thought they were good ones, because I know how far in advance these things are planned. But I did want to let the publisher know I was thinking of them, and I figured it wouldn’t hurt to let them get a glimpse of my inner goofball. Not only didn’t it hurt, it helped. Some of the bookstores I visited made their own bathroom soaps in the same vein. The moral of the story: always wash with soap.

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