SINK OR SWIM
A Branding Guide for Small Businesses
8. Think BIG. The CVB Story
One afternoon I accompanied our newest sales rep to meet with the St. Joseph, Missouri Convention, and Visitors Bureau. I asked, “What are you doing currently in all media?” They had an existing print campaign: “Bring the Whole Gang!” with a brochure featuring a group mug shot of outlaws that encouraged residents to plan get-togethers and seminars with help from the CVB.
My hometown, St. Joseph, Missouri, is proud to be the home of the Pony Express.
I pitched my idea. “We’ll start with a Pony Express rider galloping across an open field. He dismounts and runs into a saloon where he delivers a letter to a gang of outlaw gamblers. One of the bandits fires his pistol and a bullet ricochets in a comic fashion knocking off one of the other outlaw’s hat. The spot ends with the bartender taking an old fashioned gunpowder photograph which morphs into the shot from the existing brochure.”
The CVB Manager was thrilled but the new sales rep with me was awestruck and a bit overwhelmed. “How are you going to do all that, Chris?” she laughed.
“Trust me,” I answered.
My niece took horseback riding lessons and hooked me up with her instructor. And just like that, I had my Pony Express rider. I contacted the curator of the Patte Museum, (the former head office of the Pony Express) to ask for permission to borrow their old-time tavern room. (I acquired a set to hold my card game.)
I called a friend who owned the stables where my niece took riding lessons. (I found my location for the Pony Express rider) and with a little editing magic, I added some graphics to the exterior of one of the buildings at the stables and it became my saloon exterior.
Now to find my bartender. Confession: I may have created this entire commercial so I could cast the little cross-eyed man who was a sacker at my neighborhood grocery store. For years I thought he was a dead ringer for Ben Turpin, (Go ahead and Google, I’ll wait.) and had always wanted to use him in a commercial.
I crossed the street from my house and stalked him in the market. He was understandably paranoid when I approached. I handed him my card. He was skeptical. He didn’t understand why anybody would want him to be in a commercial, but I persisted. He agreed when he discovered it was a paid gig. This little guy really iced the cake to create the old west feel in my ad.
All I had left to do was build the old-time gunpowder camera. An afternoon in the studio with a cardboard box, some black paint, 3 1"x2"s, and a piece of black cloth was all it took. I had a pyrotechnics kit from my high school band days that I had used in several videos waiting for me in the studio closet with a full can of F-powder.
I booked a day for the shoot and invited some outlaws to a card game. At some point I asked, “Does anyone know where I can find a spittoon?” and one magically appeared. I’m pretty sure it belonged to the museum. The shoot and edit went ahead without a hitch and I had earned the faith of our new sales rep in my ability to go from Big Idea to Big Production.
The finished ad is below.