Determining who is “deserving” – marketing applications for any situation

A few months ago, I wrote a blog about dog marketing strategies. My grandson and I went to the animal shelter and noticed that the way the occupants presented themselves greatly influenced whether they found a new home.

Recently, it occurred to me that homeless people are the same way. Now, before you get all politically correct on me, I’m not equating dogs with the homeless. What I am saying is that marketing impacts every aspect of our lives. (Of course I’d say that; I’m a marketer.)

As I make my appointed rounds, I always keep a buck or two handy in case I run into a deserving homeless type. (My wife says I’m a soft touch and she’s probably right. But it’s not all altruism. I’m sure I could use the good karma.) How do I determine who is “deserving?” It’s completely superficial, I can assure you.

Here’s a partial list of who gets the nod:
• Anyone with a dog
• Anyone with a crutch (or a limp)
• Anyone with a kid
• Women
• Men in military garb

Now I realize that some of these are just props. But that’s okay. They get extra credit for creativity. And speaking of creativity, I’m also a sucker for clever signs:
• “Time Traveler – Help! Need Money for New Flux Capacitor.”
• “Homeless Jedi”
• “Will Code HTML for Food”
• “Betcha Can’t Hit Me With a Quarter”
• “Will Take Verbal Abuse for $1.00”
• “Out of Luck, Need a Buck” (I love poetry I can understand)

On the flip side, here’s how not to get my money:
• Just sit there
• Look crazy (like you’ll hurt me as soon as I roll down my window)
• Act overly aggressive
• Drink beer
• Have your expensive bike or backpack stashed behind a bush

And here’s how not to get my repeat business (because many homeless folks stake out the same corner):
• Don’t thank me
• Look disappointed
• Reach too far into my vehicle
• Display a sign about needing money to leave town (and never leave town)

I hope I’ve made my case that the basic rules of marketing apply no matter the situation (or even the species). I’d enjoy hearing from you. A dollar for your thoughts.

Brian Rouff is the managing partner at Imagine Marketing.
Contact Brian at

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