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Posted on 04.03.2014

Tapping into March Madness: Lessons from Garden and Gun Magazine

Southern lifestyle magazine Garden and Gun has absolutely nothing to do with college basketball. Its readership isn't likely to have a particularly high level of interest in the sport, either.

But we're all aware of the March Madness phenomenon - the anticipation that accompanies NCAA Tournament bracket selections and pools. Whether or not the games turn out to be as exciting as this year, the true appeal is seeing how the teams match up and guessing which teams will advance in the tournament.

And that's where Garden and Gun comes into play. It was a couple years ago the magazine cleverly created a March Madness-inspired social media campaign, forming its own unique "brackets" and engaging followers to anticipate winners matched in a bracket format.

The first year, the "final matchup" was between grits and barbeque, with grits taking home the first place honors. Last year, face-off between Krispy Kreme and Coke, a choice few anticipated ever having to make. Which you consider to be better may be a "toss up," but that's the fun of it - you still want to know.

This year, in a move away from food match-ups, the magazine is asking followers to select their favorite southern town. There were 32 contenders at the start of the competition; now we are in the final days of the madness. Choosing the 32 qualifiers was surely no easy task, considering how many unique places there are in the south. Each town's population had to be less than 150,000. This was the only qualifying criteria. 

Magazine Editor David DiBenedetto said, "We spent a lot of time going back and forth. Not too many college towns, not too many coastal towns, not too many in one state. It wasn't scientific, but we tried to be fair."

With the change from its food focus to towns, Garden and Gun ignited a rather surprising social media frenzy between the residents of the competing towns, the magazine providing a platform to show passion - and they're doing so in great numbers via social media, promoting Garden and Gun in the process. With thousands of tweets containing the hashtag #SouthernTowns, it's clear people have become obsessed with seeing their town win.

"We had no idea how passionate they would be," Garden and Gun's DiBenedetto said.

Garden and Gun not only conceived a clever social media campaign to help promote its magazine, it has in turn become the unofficial promoter for 32 small southern towns. That just goes to show that tweaking an already successful marketing strategy can take you from being just another team in the tournament to a respected player in the big game.

Close to home here in Tennessee, the town of Franklin may not be a Cinderella story but it has made the brackets final match-up against Savannah, Ga…and the people of Middle Tennessee couldn't be more thrilled.

What's your opinion of Garden and Gun's social media strategy? Slam dunk?


​Leslie Raney is an Assistant Account Executive at Lovell Communications. You can view more of Leslie’s blogs here. Connect with Leslie at leslie@lovell.com, or @lesliedr.

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