The Mount Washington Method of Building
by Marcia Yudkin
Has your company passed a significant milestone, won an
award or survived an ordeal? Consider what you might call
the "Mount Washington method" of spreading the news.
In practically any mall or supermarket parking lot in New
England, you'll find cars sporting a bumper sticker that
reads, "This car climbed Mt. Washington." The highest peak
in the Northeastern U.S., Mt. Washington, in New Hampshire's
White Mountains, has an eight-mile toll road that's among
the steepest in the nation, with a gradient as high as 18
percent in places.
Driving up isn't difficult, but driving down you run the
risk of burning out your brakes or clutch, and losing
control of your car. Those who have experienced the wide-eyed, white-knuckle descent regard arriving safely at the
foot of the mountain as an achievement.
The bumper sticker, given out free as a receipt for the
toll, evokes reminiscences in those parking lots and
recommendations - "Hey, you ought to go" - from those who
understand why the message isn't worded simply "Visit Mt.
Having to Describe 17 (or 1,777)
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How can you borrow this marketing technique for your
business? Think about an achievement theme for your
promotional message on giveaway T-shirts, pens or calendars.
Instead of just your logo, your embroidered or imprinted
message for employees might be "We survived 300,000
Christmas orders," or "The race to IPO -- May 15, 2001."
Legends like "ArcticTrak keeps me in shape" or "Shear Genius
- the terrifying makeover" fit this strategy for customers.
You can also emphasize the difficulty of an activity to
ratchet up its appeal in a perverse but popular way.
Several people I know call their intensive one- or two-day
seminars "boot camps," after the no-mercy Army initiation
programs. Not only do most readers and listeners smile at
this metaphor, participants sign up in the spirit of "I can
Likewise in the 1970's, a personal development program
called Erhard Seminar Training or "est" got a lot of media
attention for long, grueling sessions during which
participants rarely got the chance to use the rest rooms.
While most commentators disparaged its claim of quick
enlightenment, graduates of the training would proudly tell
friends and relatives that they "got it" and that they had
survived the ruthless rules.
The public also responds to exclusivity and the idea of
being selected while others are rejected - a twist on the
Mount Washington theme of self-selection and achievement.
The more judgmental the door guard at a night club, the more
people who value being cool want to spend money there.
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Writers often feel lucky about the prospect of giving up 15
percent of their earnings to their literary agent because
it's hard for many to become the client of an agent. And
while I haven't heard of physical tryouts for adventure
travel expeditions, I would guess they'd attract rather than
deter the intrepid.
By casting being a client, patron or employee as an
achievement, you ignite curiosity, instill pride and spur
Copyright 2001 Marcia Yudkin.
All rights reserved.
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