Little tag, huge advertising potential.

Little tag, huge advertising potential.

Earlier today, Sentai Filmworks revealed one of their Anime Expo 2013 give-aways on Instagram. The company posted a photo of a door hanger adorned with artwork from their upcoming release of Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions. Like most hotel door hangers, Sentai’s was adorned with two messages: one for “do not disturb,” the other for “please enter.”

At first glance, many could view this as a harmless freebie. After all, door hangers are common sights at any hotel – they tell the cleaning staff whether the room should be made up, or whether it should be left as-is. They’re scenery that can, and often will get ignored, as people pass by the dozens of rooms on any given floor. With this in mind, it’s not far-fetched to think that they will eventually blend into the background.

While this is indeed possible, I can’t help but feel that this will have the opposite effect.

Marketer Seth Godin likes to use the metaphor of the purple cow. He wraps this in a short story of a trip to France with his family. As they began a drive through the countryside, they were transfixed on many hundreds of cows that were grazing in pastures along the road. And, while it was a magnificent sight at first, they quickly began to ignore the cows. They didn’t change: cows, no matter how magnificent, look alike! A purple cow, he pondered, would attract attention in a heartbeat. Even among more competent cows and better bovines, people would look to the purple cow because it was remarkable. Something remarkable, Godin argues, is worth talking about, while the mundane quickly becomes invisible.

Sentai’s door hangers are a form of purple cow, in the sense that they’re a remarkable sight among a sea of stuffy, standard hotel hallways. Colorful anime characters and snappy commands to readers aren’t the types of things that people expect to see dangling from hotel doors. So, by this virtue, the hangers will already attract a degree of attention from passers-by. With the public’s attention at its command, the ad is then free to invite its readers to partake of the product. The bold message to “Watch NOW on Anime Network Online” gives readers the hook – they’re being invited to partake not at the booth, not when they get home from the con, but NOW. Given that advertising mindshare is limited (permission is a limited resource, after all!), the suggestion to watch the show NOW, in the hall where the viewer is most going to find his room, is powerful. It invites the user to check things out before he leaves – and before competing messages can force the show out of mind.

For the owner, it serves as a persistent reminder to check the product out when he gets home. There’s little doubt that many will take the hangers with them as mementos of the con, or merely as kitschy swag. Upon returning from the event, it’s also a reminder to check out the title, you guessed it, NOW.

While any advertisement is still a risk in itself, the fact that Sentai is willing to go the route of the purple cow installs confidence in their efforts. The combination of the ad’s remarkable presentation and a strong message will ensure that at it will attract a number of potential new customers. at the very least, it will get many who would have ignored the series to check out an episode or two. It will be interesting to see just how it pans out for Sentai. Personally, I do hope my predictions are right,and that the approach pays in dividends.