Are You Stopping Others From Telling Your Story?

This weekend I had some friends from out of town visit me in San Francisco. Naturally they wanted to go to Alcatraz to tour the island and prison, so off we went.

As is typical of tourist attractions, the tour organizers snapped a photo of our party at the start, printed a copy and at the end tried to sell it back to us for an obscene price (or throw away if we didn’t purchase). That’s what the above photo is. Except in a world where everyone has a digital camera, it makes little sense to purchase a staged photo when it’s just as easy to take your own. From looking around, most other people felt the same. It seems like this whole process is a relic of a previous generation.

The opportunity here for the company running the ships to and from the island isn’t to try to sell back photos at the end of our trip. What if instead of going through this wasteful process of throwing a majority of the photos away, they simply gave out the photo to trip-goers free, branded with their tour boat or company name and URL?

I can’t even remember the name of the boat that took me out there at this point. Why would I? It’s about the island, not the boat. But if they had given me a tangible takeaway, I might have remembered the boat and had an artifact from the trip I’d hang on to. Then next time someone asked me which boat to use, I’d have an answer (not just to Google it).

Instead of trying to overly-monetize everything you possibly can, what if you turned it into free marketing? Long term this approach would pay back far greater dividends on spreading your story, reputation and ultimately revenue. Or you can keep trying to mine people for immediate cash right now. I wonder which is more sustainable?