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<b>Marketing Lessons from Street Performers</b>


I thought the two startled businessmen were going to leave a surprise in their shorts. They were bushwhacked from behind the bush by bushwacky. The street crowd held their collective sides as they split with laughter.

One of the two best places in America to watch street performers is at Fisherman’s Wharf. The two San Franciscans fell victim to the diminutive little man who had set up his small bush office on the sidewalk of the Embarcadero near Pier 39. Squatting behind it he would spy unsuspecting tourists walking towards him and prepare for the pounce. After surviving your own scare, you’d move several strides down the walkway so as to not draw attention to him and watch and wait with glee for his next unwitting cast member to take center stage. Beside him his donation cup was overflowing with tips from his formerly terrified but now amused audience.

I’m a student of marketing. And bushwhacking is a marvelous technique in the appropriate environment: well-known street performing area, tourists, people having fun. It was the unexpected technique in the expected environment that surprised you. A technique you’d never forget. Ever. Something you’d tell others about for a lifetime. We can all learn from marketing geniuses like the bushwacky.

Roy H. Williams, the Wizard of Ads, says the focus of your marketing is to “surprise Broca”. French surgeon and anthropologist Paul Broca, in 1861, was the first to identify the left hemisphere of the brain as involved with speech production, in particular assessing the order of the words as they’re used. Williams refers to Broca as “the theater critic of the imagination; the part of the human mind that anticipates and ignores the predictable.” Williams says your goal in marketing is to surprise Broca with the unexpected so your message won’t be ignored.

“The common, the mundane, the average, the predictable are ignored,” says Williams, while “the unusual, the intriguing, the fascinating are immediately spied and examined.” If you want to stand out from the sales and marketing predictables make every contact a Broca surprise.

Returning to Fisherman’s Wharf the following year for another marketing lesson, a street performer was gracing the public with his guitar. His donations cup runneth over. In haste he had taken a magic marker to a scrap of cardboard found behind a restaurant and scribbled his message to position nearby: “Yes, it’s for beer.” Truth in advertising surprises.

The other best place in America to see street marketers is at Times Square in Manhattan, the island’s tourist magnet. Returning to our hotel from Penn Station we saw a crowd gathered at the corner across from the kiosk’s neon sign proclaiming “New York Police”. We heard the laughter. Crowd? Laughter? People having fun? Times Square? July? This must be something special.

We inched our way to the front of the gawkers. Playing his guitar and wearing his hat and boots was the Singing Cowboy of Times Square. His opened guitar case was producing money faster than the U.S. Mint. A marketing genius. His singing abilities sucked, and I don’t think he really knew how to play that guitar. So how did he surprise Broca? Did I mention that he was wearing his hat and cowboy boots? I did? And did I also mention that the only other thing he had on was his jockey underwear? A minimalist who knows how to market. I guess he goes undercover when the snow falls.

What do you do to get remembered in your predictable business world? Does your marketing scream “Look at me! I’m just like everyone else.” (Do you recall the actual car promoted in that last slick television ad?) Do you numb with rote presentations? Are you ignored with your uninspired voicemail leave behinds? Or do you do stand out by doing the unusual, the intriguing, and the fascinating?

New York City. Population nine million. I remember one.

What are you doing to surprise Broca so you’ll be the one?

© 2006 Jerry Hocutt, Hocutt & Associates, Inc. Download your FREE ebook, Creating Sales Opportunities – Five Proven Ways, and get a FREE 30-day trial of the D-I-Y Sales & Marketing Email Postcards™ at For many more sales & marketing tips, visit our blog at

About the Author: I’ve Been Compared to David Letterman. My mission: to help Salesknockers™ (the rare and seldom seen business person or salesperson who creates their own opportunities) succeed. I’ve trained over 150,000 people in business since 1992 through our nationally acclaimed Cold Calling for Cowards® seminars. (“He’s the Zen Master of Cold Calls” – Los Angeles Times.) I’ve been compared to David Letterman by the New Brunswick (NJ) Star-Ledger (“Lord of the Rings”). “Okay, so he’s not David Letterman.” (I didn’t say it was flattering. Just that I’ve been compared to him.)

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