Marketing of Zombie Pub Crawl Lacked Brains (Updated)

In today’s episode of Obsessions I’ll Never Quite Understand — zombies.

An estimated 13,000 people took part in the sixth annual Zombie Pub Crawl Saturday along the West Bank in Minneapolis.

I can’t imagine anything worse than thousands of boozed up 20-somethings caked in makeup and corn syrup to appear dead — or undead — roaming the streets of Minneapolis. This zombie craze is beyond me. I don’t get it. Booze, I get. You know what’s delicious with booze? Not (fake) brains. Cheeseballs, for example.

All of the sudden, it’s cool to like zombies. I’m putting that one on hipsters and Zombieland, which was actually a pretty decent movie. Ultimately, it’s about shock value. It’s about being weird and different and taking stupid photos of yourself for Facebook and having the audacity to be 28 and unemployed yet the free time to design an ornate zombie costume complete with fake gaping wounds. Am I right?

Probably not.

For the first time ever, the Zombie Pub Crawl required a $10 wristband to the chagrin of local zombie enthusiasts. Organizers of the event sensed there would be unrest, so they explained the fee on their website:

“Wristbands also allow us to pay for security guards, which we’re hiring because last year a couple people got mugged and a few bars had their windows broken, and we don’t want that kind of thing happening at the ZPC. We want it to be fun and safe. It also allows us to pay some of the people who’ve been helping us, like DWITT, our poster illustrator, who until this year has been paid only in cases of beer. And Matt, our web designer, who just had a kid. The money also goes to booking bands and renting a bunch of porta-potties. A bunch of the money from wristbands will go to state in the form of sales and entertainment taxes. We’re also planning to donate a portion of proceeds to the University of Minnesota Department of Neurology’s Alzheimer Research Program (because healthy brains taste better!). And finally, after all that, we’re going to pay ourselves for the time we put into organizing this thing, which we’ve done for free five years in a row now.”

Full disclosure is a good thing, but the organizers seriously lacked tact in explaining where the money would go. (Security guards, poster illustrator, web designer, bands, porta-potties, taxes, charity, us.)

If 13,000 showed and paid $10 a head, I wonder how much of that $130,000 made it to the University of Minnesota Department of Neurology’s Alzheimer’s Research Program. It’s a great cause thematically, but I doubt a few thousand dollars goes very far with brain research.

Furthermore, if the ZPC is aligning with a charity, that should have been made more prominent in its marketing. People like myself may have then been more interested in attending, sans zombie costume.

I’m sure the ZPC will be back next year, bigger and bolder. The organizers should take it upon themselves to align with a smaller charity in need; one where a few thousand dollars will really go somewhere.

UPDATED at 1:03 p.m.

Just received comment from Taylor Carik, one of the organizers of the Minneapolis Zombie Pub Crawl:

“Hi Andrew,

My name is Taylor, and I’m one of the organizers of the Zombie Pub Crawl.  Some details of the event might give you a different impression the pub crawl, particularly from a marketing perspective. 

There’s a total of five part-time organizers for the event, and in the days leading up to the pub crawl we had a lot on our brains.  We certainly could’ve — and should’ve — done more consistent *messaging* and we’re bummed at that missed opportunity.

Four of us started the First Annual Zombie Pub Crawl with 100 people in 2004 in Northeast Minneapolis, and we’ve built up the event year after year with our own free time, effort and specialties to consistently double the number of participants. 

For our marketing approach, we made an active decision this year to only promote the event through Twitter and Facebook, and to leverage the audience our media partners at The Onion and Yelp!. 

As the attendance numbers grew, so did the editorial exposure in several news publications and the word of mouth, which we then highlighted through our digital channels.  When questions came up, we engaged people’s questions in public and did our best to respond in a personal manner, and we also did a week of contesting with some of our VIZ passes and show tickets. 

We started the event with a marketing budget of $500, which we paid to DWITT to make us a killer poster to use online.  And with that “ad spend”, we ended up having around 13,000 ‘unemployed hipsters’ (do you include marketing interns in that?) attend the event, making it unofficially the largest pub crawl in the world and larger than many well known Twin Cities events like Rock the Garden and Soundset.

From our perspective we see that as a pretty successful marketing campaign with a huge conversion rate and pretty high return that was basically unfunded and all digital. 

In terms of the charity, because of the size and complexity of the event, we’re still taking a look at before, during, and after the event expenses, so even we don’t know how much of the revenue will go to Alzheimer’s Research.  We’re thinking it might be fun to print a giant novelty check for us to deliver to the University of Minnesota and also include that in future promotional materials. 

See you at the crawl next year!”

OK, per usual, maybe I was a little too hard on the hipster set. My marketing internship makes me, eh, 66 percent employed. Points made.

Bottomline: ZPC has been a wildly successful event and I wish Carik and Co. the best. I’d be happy to reprint the final donation total and even take part in next year’s event.

But I’m not wearing a damn zombie costume.

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One thought on “Marketing of Zombie Pub Crawl Lacked Brains (Updated)

  1. If zombies are for hipsters that means I’m going to have to start obsessing over killing Ninjas and having a Ninja escape plan!

    Dammit!

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