Can one person create an experience that will motivate tourists to put his small town back on the map? Can one family business save a small town’s economy? How did marketing the moon help NASA and its space programs? These questions and so much more are answered in this week’s Claim Your Fame.
Host Andrew Davis takes us first to Alexandria, Indiana, to meet Mike Carmichael and the world’s largest ball of paint. Then he’s off to Hamilton, Missouri, to meet Jenny Doan and her family, owners of the Missouri Star Quilt Co. Finally, marketing expert and author David Meerman Scott joins Andrew to talk about his book Marketing The Moon: The Selling of the Apollo Lunar Program. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.
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The world’s largest ball of paint
Getting into Guinness World Records is an achievement that can bring fame and celebrity. For Mike Carmichael, his motivation to break a world record wasn’t for his own 15 minutes of fame. He wanted to save his small town.
Like so many small towns across the United States, Alexandria, Indiana, had fallen on hard economic times, had seen its younger generation moving away to bigger cities, and had experienced the downfall of Main Street as big-box stores took away consumers. Mike wanted to do something to bring visitors back to his beloved town.
It was an achievement three decades in the making. Mike thought if he could build an attraction big enough to gain attention, he could draw visitors to Main Street to shop, eat, and stay. He created the world’s largest ball of paint.
Image source: Roadsideamerica.com
For 30 years, Mike kept painting what started off as a baseball. Today, after more than 24,000 coats, the ball weighs 3,000 pounds and has a 10-foot circumference. It made it into the record books in 2004. Did the ball of paint save the 5,000-population town? Not necessarily. However, Mike did bring back a feeling of community and small-town spirit as residents came together to create something quite special.
Mike’s story sets the stage nicely for another small-town business success that has changed the entire economy for a Missouri town and many of its residents.
Quick-quilting capital of the world
If you’re not a quilter, this may be the first time you’ve heard of the town Hamilton, Missouri — the quick-quilting capital of the world. The moniker was earned thanks to a down-to-earth, engaging quilt shop owner and her custom-made, YouTube video quilting tutorials. Jenny Doan is the co-founder of the Missouri Star Quilting Co., a quilt shop in Hamilton that boasts the largest selection of pre-cut fabrics in the world.
In 2008, Hamilton was hit hard with the turn of the economy. Residents Jenny and Ron Doan had raised their seven children on Ron’s income as a machinist for the Kansas City Star. Many residents were getting laid off from their jobs, and Jenny and Ron’s kids were becoming concerned about their parents’ financial future. To stay busy, Jenny would sew quilts for family and friends. Though she sewed together the fabric pieces to make a beautiful quilt herself, Jenny needed someone who had a long-arm sewing machine to add the batting — the insulation within the quilt fabric. Demand was so great that it could take nine months to a year to secure the batting-filled fabric. That gave Jenny’s son, Al, an idea.
Al and his sister Sarah invested $24,000 into a long-arm sewing machine, a dozen bolts of fabric, and a building in Hamilton for the operation. The family worked two years on the business without ever bringing home a paycheck. It was challenging to grow the business in a town of just 1,800 people. Al decided they needed a website. But, as we all know, just because you build it, does not mean they will come.
The Doans knew they had to do something different to attract web visitors and drive more online sales. Al suggested Jenny create quilting video tutorials to post on YouTube. With Jenny’s natural and engaging camera personality and Al’s amateur behind-the-scenes abilities, the Missouri Star Quilt Co.’s YouTube channel was created.
The channel received 1,000 subscribers in its first year, 10,000 in year two, and today has close to 233,000 subscribers. Jenny’s videos have reached as many as a half-million views. The videos have driven new traffic to their website, gaining an average of 2,000 online sales per day and making them the world’s largest supplier of pre-cut fabrics. Jenny receives emails from individuals all over the world who love watching her videos. From war-torn Iran to South Africa to across the United States, Jenny’s fans love her.
Though this in itself is an amazing story of claiming your fame, the success does not stop here. As Missouri Star Quilt Co. grew, so did the need for more staff. To date, Jenny and her family now have 120 employees working in Hamilton. They also invested in three other businesses, two local restaurants, and a bakery. Their retail warehouse displays 20,000 bolts of fabric and they operate five fabric shops on Hamilton’s main street. They also created a “sew-and-stay” retreat center. By year’s end, they will add another eight fabric shops to their quilting empire.
The Doans don’t necessarily know where the company will go from there. Their focus is on making the best quilts and providing the best products for their customers. In the meantime, they are changing lives and rebuilding a town, one quilt at a time.
Marketing the moon
David Meerman Scott is a marketing strategist, keynote speaker, and author of nine books published in over 30 languages. One of his recent books co-authored with Richard Jurek is Marketing The Moon: The Selling of the Apollo Lunar Program. It illustrates the massive marketing and public relations campaign executed by NASA to sell the Apollo space program to the American public.
NASA looked at marketing Apollo as a quest story. Overcoming great odds and difficulty to make it to this far-off location was a big hook for the success of this story, defying all obstacles to achieve this mission.
A lesson to be learned from the marketing of the moon campaign can be seen in the transparency NASA provided the American audience. Everything was done in an open and real-time delivery model with no real secrets. Air-to-ground correspondence could be heard at any time by anyone. When the mission was aired on television, it was live from the surface of the moon. This is exactly what we need as marketers today – to get our content out by making it live and communicating with people.
Brands such as GE, Omega, and Boeing helped sell the lunar-mission concept to the nation. Contractors wanted to get their products noticed by the public and tied themselves to this Apollo program. These companies banded together to make a bigger impact on the same audience.
Claim Your Fame wants to show you a new way to think about your business. From the world’s largest ball of paint, to the quick-quilting capital of the world, and even to the moon, Andrew encourages you to do as all of these examples have done: Stake your claim.
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute