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Over a decade ago, there was a musical group called the Spice Girls, who had a hit with a song that started off “I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want…”
Which is what I’m about to do involving a tin of popcorn and the marketing department at Virginia Tech.
What I want, as you can see in the picture with this story, is a one-gallon tin of popcorn with Coach Mike Young’s smiling face somewhere on it. It can have one flavor, or it can have three flavors, that doesn’t matter. But Young has made eating a bag of popcorn before each game sort of his trademark. And there’s a marketing opportunity here that the Hokies just shouldn’t miss.
The whole popcorn tie-in has been talked about for over a year, and the school did finally allow people to buy a replica of the kind of popcorn box you’d see in an old-time movie theater. It has a caricature of of Young, and it’s cute.
But it’s not what I want. And judging from the response to me posting this picture on social media yesterday, a lot of other people want the same thing I do.
Popcorn is one of those products that is sold around the holidays, or special occasions, in one gallon tins. You can go online at this very moment and find quite a few options if you’re seeking this, and they range in price from the $15 range up to $29. Many prefer buying it this way because the tin has a lid that keeps the popcorn fresh for a longer period of time, and the tin can be decorated in ways that makes you want to keep it well after the popcorn is gone.
In my case, there is a tin sitting here in my office that was a gift from a friend after the Washington Nationals won the World Series. The popcorn was nice, but it will stay in this house for many more years because of the World Series printing on the can. It serves as an enduring memory to a special moment for me as a fan, and it will eventually get filled with either more popcorn, stuff from my workbench in the basement, or who knows what else I need to store somewhere.
But it’s not going to ever be thrown away.
That’s what I want with Mike Young’s picture on it. It’s a great tribute to Mike, creates memories of the overachieving Virginia Tech basketball teams he’s coached, and is the kind of product – are you listening Virginia Tech marketing people? – where price doesn’t really matter. It’s unique, can be sold as a limited edition product where you need to buy it now or you’ll never get another opportunity, and can generate a lot of revenue.
I mean, these tins usually cost $20 for plain old tins with maybe a snowman on it. Say they are $50 and I won’t bat an eye. I’ll order 6 immediately, with one for me, and the other 5 being Christmas presents for my closest Hokie friends. A LOT of Hokies would do the same. And imagine what the product could do for the school itself.
If you’re a recruit out there, you’re smothered with correspondence from other schools to the point the names of some run together. That won’t happen as you’re reaching for a handful of Kettle Corn and are looking right into the eyes of Coach Young. How about fund raising? You can sell them for $50, or you can make it a perk you get if you become a Silver Hokie or higher.
You can send them to politicians, professors, sportswriters or anyone you’re trying to curry favor with, and it will make an impression because it’s unique. All you have to do is find a company who sells popcorn tins anyway, provide them the artwork you want to see on the can, and it’s done. You don’t have to be in the popcorn business. Odds are the company will either offer to handle all the logistics and customer service and Virginia Tech just gets a percentage fee, or you order a minimum number of cans for an agreed upon price, and you handle the interaction with customers.
It's low-hanging fruit, much like a Mike Young bobblehead, or offering everyone who bought cutouts to get their picture autographed by Young for a donation. These are tough times for college athletics, and the answer to these revenue challenges is never going to be one idea that brings in millions. It’s going to be a series of promotions and products that brings in thousands, and hopefully one day they will all add up to millions.
So Virginia Tech, this is what I want, what I really, really want. Put me down for 6 every year.
You just tell me where to send the check.