Last week, Toronto coffee shop Grinder Coffee earned international attention when its social media campaign to attract actor Ryan Gosling went viral, generating thousands of retweets and shares in a matter of hours and leading to dozens of news articles throughout the week.
The campaign — which featured a cardboard cutout of Gosling holding a branded mug of joe — asked the star to stop by while he was in town to promote his latest movie, “First Man,” during the Toronto International Film Festival. For 10 days, the shop shared cheeky posts with meme-worthy photos with the cardboard doppelgänger and the hashtag #ryanneedsgrinder on Twitter, Facebook and Instragram. Owner Joelle Murray promised Gosling free coffee, and even offered to pay for an Uber ride from the red carpet to Grinder’s front door.
Gosling declined the free ride, but he did show up on Tuesday, September 11, to enjoy a cup of coffee. Murray’s final campaign tweet included a photo of her hugging the real Hollywood heartthrob. It received 168 comments, more than 9,000 likes and more than 1,000 retweets.
“Small businesses like coffee shops have neither huge margins nor ad budgets. Most can rarely afford promotions, let alone advertising, so any opportunity to grab 15 minutes in the spotlight needs to be taken — or in this case, created strategically,” said venture capitalist Sean Wise, host of the Naked Entrepreneur podcast. “While Gosling may have only stayed for a few moments at Murray’s coffee shop, the impact is likely to reverberate for weeks, if not months.”
Eager to follow Grinder’s example? Here are Wise’s tips to create a campaign that gets celebrity attention:
Make your ask easy. Murray planned her campaign based on the festival schedule when she knew Gosling would be in Toronto. “If the actor hadn’t already been in town, it would have been exponentially more difficult to pull this off,” Wise said. Wondering who to target? Look to your city’s or town’s upcoming events, such as concerts, comedy shows, book signings and movies being shot. Find a star who will actually be in the vicinity.
- Be relentless. This was a well-planned and well-executed 10-day plan. Murray did not give up. She posted photos with her full-sized cardboard Gosling multiple times a day.
- Empower others to share. To help spread her message, Murray encouraged customers and others (including the mayor of Toronto) to come to the shop, take photos with the carboard Gosling and tweet them. “People can be lazy,” Wise said. “Make it easy for them to help you.”
- Engage others as allies. Murray connected with media outlets that were already promoting the film festival. “You can do the same. No venue or festival will say no to free press,” Wise said. “By engaging with others already in the same orbit, you help those allies further their own goals.”
- Have a sense of humor. “Over the entire campaign, Murray balanced her desire and dream with humility and understanding,” Wise said. “It was apparent that this was a small business owner trying to make it big and have some fun. She never took herself, or the campaign, too seriously.”
Katie Hendrick Vincent is contributing editor to The Society of American Florists