By Brokaw senior writer, Mark McKenzie

Not to be outdone by Brokaw Digital’s mind-blowing trip to the South by Southwest Interactive Conference in Austin, the Brokaw brothers used the rest of March’s career development budget (all $21.55) to send me, intrepid senior copywriter Mark McKenzie, to the annual Buzzard Day in Hinckley, Ohio. See, every year the buzzards (AKA, turkey vultures) migrate back north to Hinckley, where they spend their summer for some reason. And each year since 1957, tens of thousands of people from pretty much everywhere, descend upon Hinckley to witness the buzzards’ return and celebrate with an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast/craft fair at the elementary school. Now I’ll admit, Buzzard Day doesn’t have the high-falutin’ compu-magic of SXSW (though I did see a lot of seemingly snarky tweens using smart phones). But in between multiple cups of orange drink®, I discovered some invaluable old-school marketing insights right in our very own backyard for 1/50th the cost of SXSW. So, here’s what I learned:

  • Nothing drives traffic like all-you-can-eat pancake breakfasts.
  • If your core demo is babies age 0-6 months, just keep in mind, they’re indifferent to giant buzzard mascots, so you might want to try a different tactic.
  • Real-life buzzards know how to increase WOM. Period. (Even though they’re way too cool to ever use stupid marketing jargon like that.)
  • Craft fairs are the analog answer to digital media. Or at the very least, they’re a less convenient Etsy. Right, ceramic dog statuette?
  • If your craft booth needs a key differentiator to rise above the clutter, you could do worse (and probably better) than a selection of sequined ballcaps.
  • Don’t ignore the untapped market of dads napping on the Hinckley Elementary School gymnasium bleachers—great captive (albeit super sleepy) audience.
  • Invented media? Try hand-painted handsaws.

But most of all, I learned that Buzzard Day is the type of festival that most Americans, and consequently, most of your customers, are attending. And while they may have an iPad in one hand, they probably have a googly-eyed acorn figurine in the other. So, reaching them is going to take tactics that are part SXSW, part NXNEO, and 100% all-you-can-eat pancakes.