When Halloween gets closer, there is another unnatural phenomenon that begins to take place in cities all over the world: The Zombie Crawl. From New York to Edmonton to Denver to Minneapolis, thousands of people show up in full costume and make up to enjoy the festivities, bands, local bars, flash mobs and other activities unique to each city.
With very minimal monetary investment and hardly any brand control, these undead public gatherings have developed into organized events with tickets, transportation, famous bands, food vendors on the streets and more. Also know as a zombie mob, march, horde, shuffle and more, hundreds of zombies stay in character the whole night, often dragging a foot behind them or acting like their limbs will fall off, which brought on the name “crawl” or “shuffle”. The events also feature many theatrical groups or organized zombie mobs that stage “eating” victims to create new zombies in sight of onlookers. The mob will shamble along while other participants wait along the street, appearing as an otherwise ordinary human, until the zombies converge on the “victim”. They apply makeup and costume while hiding from the crowd and then the new zombie carries on grow awareness in another part of the city.
The zombie crawl has grown quickly from a small Sacramento group in 2001 to millions around the world participating today. The phenomenon is a great reminder to have some fun and be inventive with your marketing strategy! In the past, Zombie crawls were promoted largely by word-of-mouth and social media, making them an underground event and a giant surprise to the majority of the city. Now they tend to have a real marketing strategy.
Minneapolis/St. Paul 2011 Zombie Pub Crawl Promotion Strategy:
- A fun, zombiefied website: The site is made up almost entirely of user-generated content streams including makeup tips and zombie walking styles found on YouTube, a FAQ section and features a Flickr stream of fan photos.
- Poster: Gruesome, hand-drawn and changing every year, these posters are displayed by participating venues and collected by fans.
- Photo Galleries: Fans, professional photographers and reporters all capture the zombie infection. The website’s Flickr stream allows them a place to share their photos.
- Videos: Videos are linked to from the site which leads viewers to a stream of search results for “Minneapolis Zombie Pub Crawl” to get them inspired about attending.
- Facebook group: With 4,800+ fans and growing this fan page has people debating about costumes, different zombie walks, bands and even having a tattoo booth available during the crawl.
- Facebook event: This lets Facebook fans easily share the crawl on their Facebook wall, send invitations to their friends, and ask questions about wristbands, tickets, bands, food, etc. No matter how many times people ask the same questions outlined in the FAQ’s (or even a few posts previously on Facebook) fans and zombie organizers alike all patiently give helpful answers.
- Twitter Account: Tweets mix in daily news and tips by making them relevant to their event, such as “Pro tip: take some vitamin C. Don’t want to get sick this close to #ZPC7″. They also respond to almost every mention with answers, advice, thank yous and fun teasing such as “Some ppl just dont get it” in reply to someone tweeting “EVERYONE WANTS ME TO GO TO THE ZOMBIE PUB CRAWL. WHY WOULD I WANT TO WALK INTO A HORDE OF ZOMBIES?”
- Twitter hashtags: #ZPC7 is the Minneapolis/St. Paul yearly crawl tag and #zombiepubcrawl is the worldwide used tag
- Highlight media coverage and blog articles: Showing past media coverage and highlighting upcoming press gets fans and participants excited. Mentioning a blogger that covered the crawl can inspire others to do the same.
- Celebrating the community: By featuring local bands and different bars, restaurants and venues around Minneapolis and St. Paul, hundreds more people get involved with an event they probably originally wouldn’t have thought was good for business.
Another interesting element of the zombie crawl is the community it creates. When the Denver Zombie Crawl host got fined $1,000 from the Downtown Denver Partnership to clean-up after the event, he tweeted about needing help on the fine and the donations flew in. If you value your customers and create a brand community, they will be there for you in a crisis.
The Zombie Pub Crawl grows incredibly more successful every year and is a great example of a brand utilizing almost all user-generated content to promote itself. Local bands are excited to play in costume and grow their fan base, bigger artists like Andrew WK bring in a new crowd that (zombie or not) wants to see his performance for only $10, as well as a rumored Thriller dance flash mob having the chance of going viral on YouTube. After the events there is the added benefit of another social media boom while users share stories, tweets, posts, photos and videos about the crawl. Making any event or website fun and visual only adds to your success so trust your customers and welcome their content.
Now that zombies storming the city has been taken, what unconventional ideas are lurking within your brand?