In the late 1990s part of our HempNut marketing strategy was to give budding entrepreneurs and “hemp evangelists” the tools to get in on this new thing called hemp foods. It was a way for them to finance their hemp activism by selling our foods in their town. We provided sales sheets, recipes, signs, and trifold brochures. It was part of my “Business = Activism” ethos. We used animated banner ads on websites as well, a big thing back then (see below).
The HempNut products and display case anyone could buy wholesale, to resell in their town. The first flyer below was designed to present to stores at a trade show. It was like a wooden produce box, then later a cardboard version in a shipping case, everything needed to get started.
From bottom to top: blue corn chips, hempseed oil, shelled hempseed, nut butter, cookies in two sizes, lip balm, “The Hemp Nut Health and Cookbook,” and an energy bar. Brochures on the left, recipes on the right, sign in the middle. It would be the most-profitable square foot in the store, at $488 in sales.
We also had the first hemp food store online, hosted back then by Yahoo! Stores. Our policy was that anyone could buy at wholesale prices just by buying full cases. That wasn’t hard, as most were packed in cases of 6 or 12 each. And when they did they got half-off the retail price, allowing them to re-sell to others or stores. This allowed anyone to go into the HempNut Foods distribution business in their town, at a very low cost. They could sell them to any retailer, from boutiques to grocery stores to gas stations, or even direct to consumers at fairs or parties. Since the products were also distributed via our international sales and distribution network to thousands of stores, it allowed the entrepreneur to be close in price to them.
When introducing HempNut foods, we offered retailers what’s called a “free fill,” or a case for free. It’s pretty standard in the natural food industry, it lets them test the product to see if the public wants it or not. If you have a good product you’ll get placement after that; at least we did. I called ours the “First One’s Free” promotion, well yeah because it was hemp. Authentic Marketing should be fun! Leverage the Stigma.
Back in 1999 websites were fairly static, before embedded videos and Flash. Many still had excruciatingly-slow dial-up connections to the internet, so file size had to be small. Some of us remember waiting hours to download one image, and we still thought it was the coolest thing.
Thus the only practical way to use motion on a website was with an animated GIF, about 10 kb in size. We used these to place banner ads for our hemp foods, encouraging budding entrepreneurs to sell them in their town. They also pointed to our Yahoo! Store.
Here are the five animated GIFs we used, visualize each frame continuously moving at about 1 per second or slower: