Sunday, October 16, 2005

Marketing Tip No.212, or “Hulk Hanging Up Now”

I love this business! Hollywood is Calling is a tacky little company that will someday be huge. It lets ordinary people buy a phone call or message from real Hollywood stars ... well, assuming you consider Ron Palillo (Welcome Back Kotter’s Arnold Horshack), boxer Leon Spinks or Russell Johnson (the Professor from Gilligan’s Island) to be Hollywood stars.

The service works. I paid $40 a few years ago to have Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk) call a business acquaintance to say Thank You for appearing at a conference. When I talked to the recipient later, she was pleased as punch – even though Lou wasn’t in the mood for a conversation. As soon as he read his little spiel, he hung up. (The company says it is up to the stars whether or not to continue the conversation beyond the script they contract to do.)

It’s a wonderfully sick business: Its latest promotion is to suggest you hire horror stars to call your friends on Hallowe’en. Their top suggestion: Kane Hodder, who played Jason in the Friday the 13th movies. (I personally think the guy who played Horshack would also qualify.)

Other celebrity callers include James Drury (The Virginian), two actors who played the killer Leatherface in various Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies, former Bond girl Lana Wood (Natalie Wood’s sister), Lorenzo Lamas from Falcon Crest, former Blue Jay pitcher Tom Candiotti, Diff'rent Strokes’ Todd Bridges, and notorious housesitter Kato Kaelin.

The whole thing may be cheesy, but the price point is right. And a strategically contrived call from the right person might just impress certain clients. Check out the complete list of former stars here.

Four reasons why I think this business is a fabulous entrepreneurial venture:

* It plays into people’s growing obsession with celebrity;
* It offers a unique interactive experience at a time when bored consumers are looking for one-of-a-kind experiences they can brag about;
* It has both business and consumer applications (celebrate a friend’s birthday in a memorable way, or use it to cut through the clutter in communicating with a client or prospect);
* It uses communications technology to create the illusion of a relationship.

Homework: How could you exploit these trends in your business?

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