Trial by Fire: Add Some Flavor by Seth Weiner, Sonic Promos


Seth Weiner, MAS, Sonic Promos /

This is the first of what I hope will be many insights into the world of marketing and promotions as seen through the eyes of a BBQ-enthusiast. When the Food Network comes knocking, I will have the pilot ready to go!

For years I have been enamored with the culinary arts, especially those that use fire. Chances are if there is a BBQ technique to be tried, I have tried it—except for cooking inside banana leaves. But fear not, I just found them at the local international food market, so that is next. For me, when it comes to grilling, it is not so much what you are grilling but rather how you are grilling it. Sometimes indirect heat is used, sometimes a spit. The meat might be cured, or it may be brined. It’s really not BBQ if you just buy some chicken breasts and throw them on the fire.

It’s a lot like tradeshow promotions. Most companies or organizations will spend money on marketing DURING the show (the meat). Buy some stress balls, maybe spice it up with some note pad and pen combos, add some blinking lights and you’re done, right? What ends up happening is you get a passive audience that might grab what’s on the table because they happened to walk by your booth. These people often aren’t the buyers or the target audience. And then they add salt (Kosher, of course) to the wounds by telling you, “My kids will love these!”

To get really good tradeshow results, I always advise on pre-show marketing (the marinade). In BBQ, a marinade is commonly used to flavor meats and tenderize tougher cuts. What’s tougher than a tradeshow audience? Not much. This is why pre-show marketing is so vital to success. The key is to let attendees know that you are going to be displaying and that you want to see them. Additionally you want them to know where you will be (Booth 5309) and to give them a reason to come see you.

Here’s an example. A client was displaying at a show in Las Vegas and wanted to find a way to get current customers and target prospects to visit the booth and stay long enough for the staff to share about two minutes of information with them. Additionally, the client wanted the promotion to have a Las Vegas feel.

We worked with them to create a blackjack mailer that required attendees to visit the booth to win. We used a postcard that included an announcement of the promotion, contact info, booth number, face down playing card and instructions for play. When the mailer was brought to the booth, the playing card was removed and a hand of blackjack was played. Depending on how the hand played out, varying prizes were distributed. The results: Increased booth traffic, face to face connections and new lead opportunities.

How do you start? Work with the client to answer the important questions about message, audience and theme, and from there you should be cooking. Determine how you are going to distribute the message.  While a physical mailer tends to be more effective, a single or series of e-mails will also work well, especially if you have a tasty grand prize or special offer. You can often get an attendee list from the expo company or sponsoring association before the event so that you are not guessing on who to target. Be prepared, as there may be a cost or limitations on the number of times you can reach out.

The acid in a marinade tenderizes meat allowing more moisture to be absorbed, thus giving a juicier end product. But keep in mind though that too much acid can ruin the end product. The same can be the case with pre-show marketing. Sending off a mailer too late may result in the message not hitting the attendees in time. Instead, they may get it after the show, which looks bad and could be very costly. A good marinade (promotion) will have a delicate balance of spices (design), acids (engagement) and oil (mixes well with accompanying materials).

With that in mind, here is a recipe for the ONLY MARINADE YOU WILL EVER NEED (thanks of course to my BBQ Mentor, Steve Raichlen):

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt (kosher or sea), or to taste

4 strips of lemon zest

3 cloves garlic, crushed with the side of a cleaver or minced

1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley

1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil, cilantro, dill, oregano or a mix of all four

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil


Combine the lemon juice, hot pepper flakes, cracked pepper, and salt in a non-reactive (glass, ceramic, or stainless steel) bowl and whisk until the salt crystals are dissolved. Add the lemon zest, garlic, parsley and basil. Stir or whisk in the olive oil. The success of this marinade is in its freshness; use it within one to two hours of making. Stir again before using. Chicken and lamb are fantastic, and so are grilled portabella mushrooms.

In cooking, you don’t just become a chef – it takes time and experience and understanding of your ingredients. It’s no different in the PromoKitchen. Be sure to send me pictures of your next mixed grill.