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Monkey Business: Marketing Lessons from the Ikea Monkey

If there’s one thing the Ikea monkey taught me about both guerrilla marketing and gorilla marketing it’s this: Never underestimate the power of a little monkey business to generate a veritable media circus of free publicity for your next meeting event.

(If you’re not up to speed with the Ikea monkey reference, here’s the skinny: A monkey, disguised as an airline pilot, boarded a plane from Malawi to Montreal. After the plane was diverted to bigstock-Confused-Gorilla-Man-2154196Toronto, the monkey found work at a Canada Post sorting depot in Burlington. It was during this time he met and fell in love with his boss’s wife, Rose. I’m going to skip the events that transpired over the ensuing months – suffice it to say things got a little bananas, to the point that the only way “Darwin” (his most recent alias) was going to win Rose back was to show her that he, unlike Rose’s rather un-evolved husband, could easily put together an Ikea bookshelf. This is where immigration authorities caught up with Darwin – comparing shelf tones in the dizzying maze of a Toronto Ikea. Why he didn’t just go to the Ikea in Burlington, or for that matter, build his own bookshelf from scratch, remains a mystery.)

Within 12 hours Ikea monkey had morphed into a worldwide media phenomenon. Yes, you can even follow Ikea monkey on Twitter (at the time of writing, Ikea monkey had more than 8,000 followers on Twitter).

The marketing lesson for meeting and event planners is this: Letting a dressed monkey loose at your meeting location a week before the event will garner you more exposure than “two-for-one Tuesdays” at a nudist colony.

Now I’m not suggesting anything ridiculous like actually letting a live monkey loose. The loose monkey is merely a metaphor for doing something outlandish that would generate free publicity, such as letting a beaver, moose or wolverine loose at your meeting facility (all of which being much more realistic options than finding a monkey in Canada, I’m mean let’s be real here).

If live animals are too wild for you, consider one of these ten tamer, yet still effective, buzz-boosting options:

If any of these tactics fails to produce the desired buzz, you can always resort back to the basics of gorilla marketing: I hear Darwin is working for peanuts these days. Plus, he’s got an awesomely heartwarming signature story to share with audiences.

Michael Kerr is listed as one of Canada’s most in-demand speakers.  Surf over to to discover how to put humor to work for more success in your organization. This article first appeared in Speaking of Impact: the Voice of Canadian Meetings. 


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