6 lessons NYC’s Candy Cab can teach you about marketing

A New York City cab driver has created his own perfect blend of PR, marketing, and social media—all by offering free candy to his passengers.

Known as the Candy Cab, Mansoor Khalid wanted to give New Yorkers a little slice of happiness as a way to help him recover from the loss of his 18-month-old son to a congenital heart condition. By making a cab ride a little bit sweeter, he’s developed a following of happy passengers and created positive buzz in the streets of New York.

In addition to munching on every sort of candy imaginable while weaving through the street of Manhattan, passengers can also plug into Khalid’s sub-woofer system, enjoying their own tunes and a techno light show.

Without the resources of a national brand, the Candy Cab’s experiment in happiness has become a microcosm of successful integrated marketing.

What lessons can we take away from this sweet ride on wheels?

Know your customer: New Yorkers can be a tough crowd, but they do have one thing in common: Finding a vacant cab can be frustrating. By creating an oasis of fun in the confines of his taxi, he makes sure even the most jaded citizens of the Big Apple leave with a smile at the end of the ride.

Believe in your mission: Working in PR, social media, or marketing, we are often faced with a situation that needs to be turned around. In Khalid’s case, he felt he could derive happiness by making others happy. As professionals, if we don’t believe in the mission, we will never sell it to the end user—a customer, a client, or upper management. The Candy Cab’s passion is infectious; his success rate in creating a positive experience is probably high.

Allow for personalization: There’s no magic in transporting a passenger from Point A to Point B, but you can always make a simple product better. Witness the Candy Cabbie’s personalized sound system; simply plug in your device with your own play list, and you’re listening to the music of your choosing. The lesson? Never keep the product experience so rigid that your customer can’t make it their own. Social media platforms such as Facebook and Tumblr do this well.

Quality, not quantity: We’ve all seen Twitter and Instagram profiles with thousands of followers. But how many people can any one person personally connect with to create a meaningful experience? As he builds his brand, Khalid takes candy requests from his 3,000-plus Twitter followers and regularly posts Instagram photos to the delight of the 1,500 people who follow him. His Facebook page is filled with fans sharing their cab ride videos or heartfelt messages on his wall. Creating meaningful connections as a fan base grows is key to any brand’s ongoing success.

Invest in the product: We often counsel clients or colleagues for the need to create room in the budget to leverage the promotion of a property. In the Candy Cabbie’s case, he invested in a light and sound system, as well as $300 worth of candy each month, to enhance his passengers’ experience. Hopefully, the ROI shows up in great tips.

Experiential marketing: With any product, providing a memorable experience for the customer is one of the key goals. If the Candy Cabbie’s customers have a positive experience, you hear about it firsthand, as they create a memory on their personal handheld device and share it—the ultimate compliment. The positive buzz also results in third-party media opportunities. When a strategy fires on all pistons, it can pay off in mass acceptance of a brand.