And the Valentine’s Day Best-In-Show Honour Goes to… the Cockroaches!

You know a marketing campaign is great when you hear about it, and how amazing it is from a non-marketer. You know, just an ordinary everyday ‘Joe’? I think we call them consumers. Anyway, this one is a DOOZY!

Over the past few years, I’ve taken a step back from a lot of the mainstream and mass media out there. It’s not like I’m off the grid or anything like that. Ok, so I don’t have cable therefore think I’m better than you… work with me here please. With that, I’ve somewhat intentionally removed myself from the marketing and agency universe and as a result, I’m not exactly the go-to guy for what’s cool in marketing. But my beard is pretty cool though – right?

What I’m getting at is that I’m no longer the authority I once was – painful as it is to admit – on what’s trending out there. I am, however, still a consumer, and a pretty objective one at that. So, when I heard from a fellow newbie quinquagenarian*, about this hilarious promotion happening online for Valentine’s Day, I was intrigued.

* The names and identities of the characters have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals, and to keep this wiseguy from getting in trouble.

Here’s the set-up: After catching a movie earlier this week with my dear friend ‘Wendy’, she and I went out to enjoy a post-flick beer and a bite. We were having a great conversation catching up on all the things we early fifty-somethings find interesting: our families, Netflix documentaries, body parts that hurt or don’t quite work like they used to. I should preface this narrative by sharing that Wendy is going through a lengthy and somewhat complicated break-up, so when the topic turned to plans for the weekend, and this Friday being Valentine’s Day, I was surprised and delighted to see a big smile on her face. Little did I realize in the moment it was in fact a shit-eating grin.

“Whaaaat?” I said to fill the pregnant pause. “What?!” I repeated. “Wanna see what I did?” she replied through her aforementioned grin. The look on my face was enough to show I was taking the bait. “Have you seen the cockroach Valentines thing?” she asked. “It was on CNN.” I was 100% hooked, and the anticipation continued to grow as she pulled out her phone to show me.

There on was a big old pic of a cockroach, with the headline: Name a cockroach after your ex and watch an animal eat it on Valentine’s Day. Not taking the time to grasp what she was sharing, I looked at her quizzically.

She explained that for a mere $5, she was able to purchase a cockroach, name it after her less-than-beloved ex (Let’s call him ‘George’), and on the big ‘V’ day, she would receive a link to a live stream of ‘George’ being fed to an animal at the San Antonio Zoo. She laughed the entire time she was telling me. Not only was I pleased to see her joy in telling me this , my marketer mind was blown.

W.O.W. The wheels started spinning. Like they do when I see something creatively brilliant from marketing. Right after I got over the fact that the idea wasn’t mine… in milliseconds I began running it through the wringer.

This idea can’t be as good as it sounds… Can it?!

All signs seem to point to YES

The promotion: Cry Me a Cockroach is a campaign brought to life by the San Antonio Zoo. 2020 being its inaugural event.

Call to action: Name a cockroach after your ex and watch it get fed to one of our animals – for ONLY $5! (There’s also a premium option of feeding a rodent to a reptile for $25)


Why do I like this idea so much? Because I feel it demonstrates exactly what good branding and marketing can and should do when done right:

  • Find and target a specific yet sizeable market at a very key time
  • Tapping into very real and timely emotions
  • All for a respectable cause – a zoo recognized as a pioneer in the ethical treatment of their animals.

Was it targeted to me?

Not. At. All.

As a matter of fact, I’m an old-fashioned romantic who always makes an effort with the loves of my life – my amazing wife and children. For me, Valentine’s Day allows me to celebrate how fortunate I am to have so much love around me – every day. There, I’m done, you can release finger from throat... What I can’t ignore and actually appreciate is how Valentine’s Day is just plain shitty for what seems like a considerable majority, for so many obvious and justifiable reasons.

A HUGE fist pump to San Antonio Zoo and whoever else contributed in bringing this little gem to life. It’s what I refer to as a win/win/win scenario:

  1. WIN: Sad people feel happy
  2. WIN: Well-treated creatures get good food (not the cockroaches)
  3. WIN: and a business makes money to be able to sustain its positive mission.

I like to call it meaningful marketing that surprises and delights. EVEN this wiseguy with the jaded old creative director that lurks inside of me.

Thanks ‘Wendy’ for sharing this great story with me. I can’t wait until our next beer!

Happy Valentine’s Day to all the old-school softies out there! Until next week.

I welcome your comments always. Just don’t be mean, it’s Valentine’s Day after all.

Share your thoughts

%d bloggers like this: