Independence Day! Happy Birthday America and a Marketing Lesson

by John Zajaros on July 5, 2010

Life is Full of Lessons, You Simply Have to Pay Attention!

A funny thing happened on my walk with TuffGuy…I learned something about people!

You might call it a marketing lesson or simply a lesson about people. Ultimately, it was another life lesson and I had fun learning it.

I was walking along the other night and I got this idea. That happens to me a lot! Some of the ideas I get a pretty good and other seem really good at the time but end up failing my “Light of Day Test.”

The Light of Day Test

I read Stephen King’s memoir about writing, aptly entitled On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft and he said something about his process that’s stayed with me over the years. King said that when he has a good idea he kind of lets it sit in his head for a while, to see if it has traction, to see if it takes hold. If it stands the test of time in his head, he takes it to the next level.

My Light of Day Test is quite similar. I get ideas all the time, we all do, but I rarely act on them immediately. You see, when you get as many ideas as I do, as well all do, there are good ones, not-so-good ones, and then there are the ones that just plain stink! The funny thing is that at first it is hard to tell the great ones form the stinkers…it takes the Light of Day to expose them for what they are or aren’t.

Consequently, whenever I have an idea, I either set it down in one of the little black books I carry around (purchased for a few bucks through Amazon), an idea I got from Perry Marshall, or I record it using my little digital recorder, the one I carry with me wherever I go.

You see, ideas are a lot like dreams; and, if you think you can remember them by simply saying to yourself, “That’s a great idea, I’ll have to remember that one!” You are kidding yourself! Within a very short period of time, you will find yourself struggling to remember the idea, if you can even remember that you had the idea in the first place.

The mind is funny that way!

So, I record everything…in one way or another. Then? I let it sit for at least a day and usually two. 48 hours seems to be best. If it stands the Light of Day for 48 hours, it’s a good one and I need to act on it. If I still haven’t done anything with it after 96 hours…it’s either uninteresting or a stinker.

I was struggling for a way to say Happy Birthday America and Happy 4th of July to my subscribers and clients. It’s all been done and most of it has been said to the point of cliche…so I struggled…until I came up with the idea I eventually ran with.

Happy Birthday America!

I got the idea to have people on the street say “Happy Birthday America!” But how? That was tough because I was a bit nervous about walking up to people on the street like that and I wasn’t sure how over the top I wanted to go with it either. Would I go to the metro parks and ask people? Would I go to the local beaches?

Anyway, I always carry my Flip MinoHD with me wherever I go. Yes, I know! Digital recorder, Flip MinoHD, cell phone, it’s all a bit much. I agree! Heck, I could probably help jump start a car with the battery power I carry around with me! But in today’s world, and particularly as an inbound marketing consultant, it pays to be plugged in. Not that I like it, mind you…it’s a necessity.

So, there I was walking down the street with TuffGuy, it’s about midnight or a little before on Detroit Ave in Lakewood, Ohio; there are a lot of people out an about on their way to their favorite night spots.

It’s now or never…so I go for it!

I pull out my Flip MinoHD and screw in the mini tripod so I have something to hold onto and stabilize the shot a little. Before I know it the first group comes along and I blurt out:

“Hey guys! Will you say Happy Birthday America!?”

And they do!

Great! I’m off and running and each success fuels my enthusiasm and I get bolder. I even start asking people to do it over if they haven’t given it their all…and they do!

Marketing Lesson One:

People will surprise you. If you are genuine and ask their permission…they will respond! But you have to ask! And you must smile!

Interestingly, almost everyone said “Yes!”

Almost everyone!

Two groups of young ladies said no, not particularly surprising given the hour of the day, midnight, and the fact that I was a “strange” man, strange to them, with a camera asking them to do something out of the ordinary. What was interesting was how many said yes…that was interesting.

One person said no in a not so pleasant way, a man. I would say he was his early 30s and walking alone. It wasn’t that he said no, he wasn’t profane, he was rather contemptuous. Yes, I got all of that in less than a second or two.

Malcolm Gladwell is right. I got it all in a Blink!

Of the two groups of young ladies, diffusion of responsibility played a role (see the incredible story of Kitty Genovese for how powerful a force this can be). In both instances at least one person in each group appeared willing until the more dominant personality said no…then all bets were off. Interesting!

In each instance, the dominant personality determined for the other or others, and the remaining group members simply¬†acquiesced. Only in one instance did the group respond with “Happy Birthday America!” after one member of the group said no. In this instance, the two in agreement were clearly dominant and were out to have a good time. The third in that group did stay in the frame but was clearly shy and out of her element.

Again, interesting!

Significantly, the early successes fueled my enthusiasm and provided a buffer against the disappointment of the occasional no. Many sales people and marketers are stopped by a no early in the prospecting cycle; and, after all, wasn’t I prospecting?

Every time I got someone to shout of “Happy Birthday America!”, and some even sang it (Ha!), I made a sale!

Think about that for a minute from a sales and marketing perspective! Heck, from a human perspective:

  • I was walking along an at times, poorly lit city street at midnight
  • I am a 5’11” and 220lb man in his mid-50s with a little dog
  • I am a complete stranger
  • I have something in my hand!
  • Not only that, I am walking right up to them
  • I am making eye contact
  • And I am asking them to get out of their comfort zone and do something totally unanticipated and even uncomfortable

And they did it! Not once or twice but over 30 times in the course of two hours with a 10% refusal rate!

Marketing lesson number two:

Some people will say no…to anything!

I could have been providing ice water at the Earth’s core and the same three groups would probably have said no. In fact, they will probably say no to most things. Sometimes you just can’t give stuff away.

So, relax, play the numbers, and smile!


  • Expect it
  • Live with it
  • Understand it is not personal
  • Move on

Once again, it is not personal, move on!

Marketing Lesson Three:

This is probably the most interesting takeaway of all…people will surprise you!

The results of my little impromptu, marketing experiment were, as I’ve said above, interesting. The results were also encouraging. The individuals I approached had every right to say “Buzz off!” or worse and they didn’t, they were friendly, open, and receptive.


I can only guess without a proper survey but I would have to guess that it was a number of things:

  • I smiled!
  • I had TuffGuy with me and TuffGuy acted as a foil. He offered enough contrast and offset what may have otherwise been viewed as a threatening situation.
  • My age, I look like someone’s grandfather. I am someone’s grandfather!
  • Almost everyone I approached was in a group and I was alone. There’s safety in numbers.
  • The situation was conducive for such an approach. People were out having a good time and were relaxed, apt to “give it a shot.”

I could go on but I think the best strategy from here is to let you see the reactions of the people. I did cut a couple of clips for the sake of time and to edit out the clips that were just too dark to see. Otherwise, the clips are as is…as you will soon see.

If you are into marketing as I am, you will no-doubt find the video interesting, particularly in light of the marketing takeaways described above.

At least I hope you do!

As always, contact me if you need anything or leave a comment and I will respond!

Thank you for taking the time to read the above and view the video. If you like it, tell others. If you have feedback, let me know. If you wold like me to cover a certain aspect of marketing, drop me a line.

Thank you!


Professor John P. J. Zajaros, Sr.
The Ultimate Internet Image
Lakewood, Ohio 44107
440-821-7018 (cell)
216-712-7004 (bus)

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