Independent shops, theaters, bars and restaurants depend largely on their fans to spread brand awareness through word of mouth. Since they don’t have the big budgets to fund traditional advertising, they mostly limit their merchandise to promotional stickers or buttons that sit at the cash register.
These small promotional items can actually have a big effect. I always pick up stickers when I’m at community events because I think they look cool. I usually stick them on ugly appliances like my alarm clock and coffee maker. And I really do begin to champion those brands. Here are a few local brands that appear in sticker form on my coffee grinder, and that I love:
What it is: Independent video rental store in the Poncey-Highland neighborhood of Atlanta.
Why I love it: They rent old, obscure and art flicks you can’t find anywhere else. On a lonely night I’ll go there to browse and always end up walking home with a gem. Unlike a lot of indie stores with weird “closed for three hours in the middle of the day on Tuesdays and days that end in 3” hours, Videodrome is open noon to midnight, seven days a week. The salespeople are not only bonafide movie geeks, they’re also really nice about helping you find a movie.
How I’ve patronized it: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Nosferatu I played on a projection screen for my Halloween party. These other horror movies I got for fun: Texas Chainsaw Massacre, M, Dial M for Murder, The Descent, Let the Right One In. If you’re not one for fright, try The Apartment, a delightful old comedy with an undercurrent of sadness and starring a young Jack Lemmon.
2. Merge Records
What it is: Independent record label based in Durham, North Carolina.
Why I love it: Not only does Merge release solid music, it is by the community for the community. (The cofounders started Merge so they could release music by them and their friends.) Even after becoming a globally recognized label and hitting it big with Arcade Fire’s Funeral, Merge continues to invest in unknown talent and put on great shows in small venues that people like me can afford.
How I’ve patronized it: I’ve got my pass for September’s Hopscotch Festival, which Merge is co-sponsoring. Taking place in Raleigh, North Carolina, Hopscotch will host local acts like the Love Language and the Rosebuds alongside Broken Social Scene, Public Enemy and Panda Bear.
3. Mathew Curran
Who he is: Stencil artist based in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Why I love him: Mathew Curran puts out some really cool art and engages constantly with his city — painting graffiti in the middle of the local creative conference and contributing to public outdoor works.
How I’ve patronized him: I attended exhibit openings and festivals where his work appeared, and hung out at the gallery where he frequently showed work. And maybe one day I can afford to purchase a piece.
What it is: Locally owned popsicle shop using locally farmed ingredients. Locations around North Carolina’s Triangle.
Why I love it: Simple. Cheap. Tasty.
How I’ve patronized it: I used to get Locopops at their Hillsborough Street location when I lived in Raleigh. The shop is across the street from N.C. State University, where you can sit on the grass with a pop on a hot summer’s day, seeking refuge in shade and frozen cream.
So, do I love these places because I have their stickers, or did I pick up their stickers because I loved them already? I’m thinking it’s a little of both.