“Never waste a good crisis…” Many politicians have said these words touting the benefits of the hysteria and urgency introduced by difficult situations. When people are under extraordinary pressure or panic, decisions are made quickly and with less resistance than under normal circumstances. In Chile, miners had been trapped a half mile below the surface for 69 days, thanks to a collapse in one of the mining shafts. This has generated news coverage around the world and over 1,000 reporters on the scene to share updates to their audiences. For some, this real-life drama demonstrates the human ability to endure difficult circumstances. For others, this creates a commercial opportunity.
Next, I’d like introduce Oakley Sunglasses. This is a relatively small company (2000 employees) based in Southern California that manufactures and markets high-end sunglasses. As the miners in Chile have been emerging from captivity, they have been sporting brand new, $450 Oakley sunglasses. Of course, there is a function behind the sunglasses: Protecting the workers who have not had exposure to UV rays for an extended period of time. However, it is no mistake that Oakley sunglasses were the chosen eye protection. It turns out, the stylish shades were provided for free in an effort to gain exposure to potential new customers.
Regardless of your feelings on taking advantage of a bad situation, Oakley has yielded some huge gains in getting press for their brand and sunglasses. In fact, it is estimated that this relatively cheap donation generated the equivalent of $41 million in advertising time. As international businesspeople, we can learn two things from this example:
- International marketing opportunities come in many different shapes and sizes. Traditional advertising such as print and television do not always do the greatest job to differentiate you in international markets.
- Money and effectiveness are not always directly proportional. Oakley found an opportunity to spread its brand across the globe by spending a few thousand dollars, at the most.