So you are General William Giles Harding, living in Nashville, Tennessee and you need to drive up sales of your thoroughbred horses in 1860 and pay for the upkeep of your 5,400 acre estate, Belle Mead Plantation. You have customers in the north but how do you get the message out and close sales, when the internet and social media won’t be invented for at least another 150 years?  You use clever marketing.

So the General invited a few of his top customers from the north down to his estate. The most wealthy he put up in his plantation house. The rest stayed in the local upmarket hotel and caught the train to his own railway station on the estate. Over lunch, before they were about to ride out and tour the estate he would say “Let’s go and shoot some buffalo”. He appeared senile and his guests politely explained that there had been no buffalo in Tennessee for over 50 years. But he was very assertive, “We can hunt buffalo. I’ll wager that if you can shoot a buffalo then you will buy one of my thoroughbreds”.  His guests not wanting to embarrass their host happily took the bet, not realizing that the General was not senile but very smart and had stocked his estate with buffalo, elk and deer.

So the shooting party spent the day on the estate and nearly all of them shot a buffalo, took it home to have it mounted as a trophy, and of course bought a thoroughbred as per the bet. More importantly, it was the most fun any of these rich northerners had ever had. So they went back and told their friends who lined up to come down and bag a buffalo and buy a thoroughbred.

So, even back then, marketing was about a clever offer which exceeded expectations and got the word out. Nothing has changed.

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