It all began during the infamous government shut down of 2013. The owner of the Delmark Tire Service, Jason Horstman, decided to lighten the mood by poking fun at the serious situation. While he told his local St. Joseph’s News-Press that it can be difficult to catch his customers’ attention in the age of the Internet, Horstman noticed that the joke seemed to strike a chord with his community. So he tried it again. Now, the Delmark Tire Service’s sign constantly features a joke, references a holiday, or offers an unusual deal to those driving by.
It’s all part of what Horstman calls the “audience participation” school of advertising. For years, he has also distributed business cards throughout the community that feature a deal on a service at the station and a game, gag or giveaway. For example, one famous card displayed a picture of a rabbit and the message “If you can guess the same of a famous Pooka, you get your tires rotated for free.” The reference to the James Stewart movie “Harvey” drew in plenty of customers.
Horstman’s sign tactics operate in a similar way: on Peanut Butter and Jelly Day, for example, the sign announced that customers could stop in for an oil change and a sandwich. After a local foreman stopped in to take advantage of the deal before heading back to the job site, another seven construction workers wandered in for a sandwich and an affordable oil change. Other deals have included Lucky Penny Day, free apples on Johnny Appleseed Day and Trail Mix on Hit the Trails Day. Most are tied to an obvious holiday, but if it’s something unique and funny, Horstman says he will stretch it through an entire week.
Many of the ideas for the sign are his own, but Horstman says he also finds inspiration online. And while some people only stop by to take a picture, he says that the unique advertising method has increased business and attracted a number of new customers. While it might not be the first marketing tactic that comes to mind in the modern, tech-savvy world we live in, it just goes to show that the simplest things can often be the most effective.