Billboards, Wall Drug, and the Internet

I recently took a few days off and headed out of town with my wife. One day we found ourselves sitting in a pub near the highway on the way into Princeton, BC. I found out the place was for sale ($860k) so my mind naturally started mulling on ways to make that place more profitable. That quickly reminded me of a brilliant marketing campaign I came across one time driving through South Dakota – for Wall Drug. (Here’s some more background on Wall Drug, and some pictures┬átaken by another blogger).

Anyone who has ever driven through South Dakota within a few hundred miles of Wall Drug will know what I’m talking about. If you’ve followed any of the marketing gurus, chances are you’ve heard them say that you need at least 7 “touches” to get your message across to your customer.

Most people would think that is irrelevant for a roadside attraction. In fact most attractions you come across will at best have a billboard at the exit you need to take to reach them. At worst, you’ll see their sign from the highway as you’re passing by. The thought will flit into your head “that looks like it might have been interesting… oh well, it’s not worth turning around now.”

Sitting in that restaurant I thought of how effectively Wall Drug got their 7 touches – in fact far, far more than 7 touches. I was driving down the highway with my friend on a roadtrip when we saw the first Wall Drug billboard. It had some funny title on it, and said Wall Drug was coming up in 250 miles or something like that. At the time I remember noticing it, thinking it was funny, and thinking what the heck would they advertise from 250 miles away? Then I forgot about it, until the next sign, probably around 200 miles. This time I pointed it out to my friend.

As we drove on, the signs became more and more frequent, until as we were passing one sign, we could actually see the next ones coming up. Each one had a bit of a different theme, but they were all funny.

Finally, we decided that anything worthy of this many billboards was definitely worth a look-see. Keep in mind we were driving through South Dakota, where there is NOTHING for hundreds of miles. Something this big ought to be good.

So we stopped. And I think we probably spent a few bucks too.

So what’s the moral of the story? Wall Drug is a drugstore. At least, that’s what it started out as. It’s FAR more than that now, a genuine tourist attraction. However, if a┬ádrug store can generate that kind of interest, what can you do with your business?

Forget the billboards for a moment, what about direct mail, or even email? The principle is the same. Keep it interesting, and sooner or later they’re going to want to see what all the commotion is about!

2 Responses to Billboards, Wall Drug, and the Internet
  1. Conservative Books
    March 5, 2009 | 7:32 pm

    Wall Drug has an amazing campaign. I’ve driven through south dakota and definitely stopped at wall drug. After seeing a billboard for what seemed like every mile for about 4 hours you can’t really not stop and see what it is about.

    Conservative Books\\\´s last blog post..Jerry Cooper Highway, Are You Serious?

  2. Adventurous Wench women's travel
    March 21, 2009 | 12:51 pm

    With relatives in South Dakota, I visited Wall Drug many times as a child. Imagine my surprise years later, standing in a bank in Venice, Italy, to see a sign “6000 miles to Wall Drug”. That campaign has stretched a long way!

    Adventurous Wench women’s travel\\\´s last blog post..Sedona – Hedgehogs in bloom