The National Football League (NFL) playoffs are in full swing and although my blessed Steelers lost to Denver and were out early, I still enjoy watching during playoff time and hope the Baltimore Ravens win the big one in Indianapolis this February. Poo Poo I say to a dear friend who loves the 49ers!
Watching all these games (and those throughout the season) starting me thinking on how small business owners should take advantage of copying their competitors—much like the Pittsburgh Steeler Terrible Towel.
To the upper right is a picture of Steeler fans waving their Terrible Towels created by legendary Pittsburgh broadcaster Myron Cope way back in 1975 when the Steel Curtain defense ruled the game. This must-have Steeler accessory (if you’re a fan) has been taken to Mount Everest and even made a trip to the international Space Station—in fact, President Obama has even waived one around—he’s a closet Steeler fan even though he hails from Chicago (well at least politically).
The point to all this is while I’ve watched games this season, I see all sorts of towels. Well, some are towel size and some seem to be shaped like wash cloths. The Terrible Towel is being copied by some NFL fans, teams and stadium owners such as the white and red in Phoenix, the orange in Denver and those awful tiny little rags of red in San Francisco. And, it seems to be working. Sales on copycat NFL colored fabric is big bucks and put a team on any old piece of cloth and fans will waive it.
Business owners can learn a lot from this, as long as they don’t mess with patents, trademarks and such. Car dealers do this all the time. If the dealership across the street has big balloons, the competitor will put up even bigger balloons. I don’t think most business owners take advantage of this simple opportunity!
If you own a bookstore where you charge $5 per kid for a Saturday afternoon book reading but at your competitor the afternoon readings are free, yours should also be free. If your gift shop competitor gives away candle samples and you don’t, why aren’t you? If your competitor is offering truly free 30-day trials of their product and you request a credit card before issuing access to the free trial, which business do you think will be the favored one by consumers?
As a Steeler fan it angers me when I see all those green, orange, red and white (put a color and logo on it) towels and rags waving as if they could really drown out the true Terrible Towel because as we all know, the Steeler Nation travels well—we are everywhere. But, on the other hand, if I put my business hat on and I had a store that sold sports items or business logo gadgets, I would definitely be in the “put your team logo here” business and raking in the bucks.
Even the Pittsburgh Business Times wrote a great story on using branding to your advantage in 2012 in a great post you can find here, which uses the Terrible Towel as an example.
With the NFL season almost over but 2012 just in its infancy, this is something for business owners to think about. What can you do to copy your competitor to increase sales? Come up with a few ideas and then get some customer feedback and then implement the sales campaign. Pretty soon, you’ll have a brand or favorite customers will flock to.
This is no marketing mistake by those making and selling these fan accessories. It’s truly brilliant but in my house, you’ll only find those of the yellow variety and yep even a worn and torn original from 1975—but I am still proud to waive that old towel even if I am afraid to put it in the washing machine. It’s been washed enough already with tears from horrible losses!
Steeler Nation, be mad about this if you must but business owners—take advantage of this idea and run with it in 2012!