On June 24th, at the Mays Landing Hometown Celebration I threw my first event ever – Car Smash 2017. The goal was to help market Kneble’s Auto Service Center Inc. while helping the community. As the focus of Kneble’s Auto for 2017 has been branding, I wanted to break the mold in representation of the shop while also doing something fun. The Mays Landing Hometown Celebration is one of four (or five) main Mays Landing events and as Kneble’s Auto is located in Mays Landing, this was chosen as a good fit. It was the first time that from start to finish, I had full control and responsibility. I want to say thank you for my parents, sisters, and friends for their help.
I have always been told that the first event always doesn’t go as planned and aren’t normally successful. It was determined to break this mold.
I have seen car smashes online whether it was Facebook, Google, and YouTube. It always looks way too fun and essentially brings a crowd because they’re amazed by the carnage. I have suggested this in the past, but finding the right venue was difficult. This needs a crowd to really go off. It has a catch 22 where you want to do it more when you see a crowd. My parents thankfully had the vehicles. They weren’t originally interested in the idea until I showed them the videos and the crowds. Once I got their support, we started from there.
I wanted to do this properly. I just didn’t want to announce and leave it there. We started talking to family friends who we used to bounce the idea off. They loved it and that is when talk started to spread. I wanted to have a theme and really make this a full experience from start to finish. I didn’t want people to think that this was just some half-assed event where you swing your hammer and then you’re done. I wanted to make them feel like they’re getting the VIP treatment regardless of the individuals paying a bit more than the normal games at this festival. After all, the proceeds were going to charity which is why we’re going big.
I initially wanted to give this a bit of a nightlife-esque feel. Here is what I envisioned step-by-step as seen by the celebration-goer.
Step 1. You walk up and you’re greeted to donate.
Thanks to a number of part companies, we had free swag to hand out. That would be a side draw outside of demolishing a vehicle. Who doesn’t like free stuff?
Step 2. You pay and enter “the ring of destruction” aka the area where the cars* are located.
We cordoned off an area where you could go smash a car safely and not hurt any individuals watching.
*I will discuss the plurality of the vehicles later.
Step 3. Grab your safety glasses and choose your “tool of destruction.”
We wanted some diversity in what you could do and smash the vehicles. Plus, I wanted for children to be able to do this without having to lift a sledge hammer as they wouldn’t be able to. We went with 4 sledgehammers, 2 normal sized hammers, one small hammer, 2 long crowbars, 1 short crowbar, 11 black cans of spray paint, 11 white cans of spray paint, 4 red cans of spray paint, 3 blue cans of spray paint, 3 orange cans of spray paint and 3 green cans of spray paint.
Step 4. You either get three swings or two minutes free-for-all. We were charging $5 for the three swings or $15 for two minutes free-for-all.
The 3 swings were with any “tool of destruction,” but the spray paint. We decided there was no real way to measure it besides time. During the swings or the spray painting, we would be filming you for a montage.
Step 5. Get your photo in front of the backdrop with your friends or family and the tools you used. This would be for Facebook afterwards as well as any future promotions.
Once we got the idea and the setup down, it was about moving forward. As I said, I refused to just do a text announcement. I wanted to go all out on this event. I created a poster. I messed around with a lot of ideas. I know I wanted to make a skull-and-bones type logo with a hammer, wrench, and a vehicle.
The First Car
In order for us to truly understand the car smash, we had to hold our own car smash to see what it was like. I sadly had not had any prior experience. Thankfully, we had a number of cars that we could use for the smash, the video, and for a test. I brought out a few friends and my cousin and we went to town on the first car. This is where we figured out pricing and how many swings. It was so much fun and exhilarating. It also taught us about a few potential mistakes that we thankfully avoided. It also made for great content for the original site. You can find the site here. We filmed the gif’s for this which people loved.
Step 1. Arrive at the Car Smash
Step 2. Choose your destruction plan
Step 3. Choose your tool for destruction plan
Step 4. Put on your safety gear
Step 5. Let the MAYHEM ensue
Unfortunately, the first hiccup put a damper on a lot of things. Smashing cars can potentially be dangerous. Swinging around tools and smacking a car is not considered as totally safe. I get it. That is why we realized we needed insurance. Because this was through Kneble’s Auto, my mother took lead on this issue. We weren’t getting approved by anyone or if we were approved, the price was ridiculous. Days turned into a week or two and we expected this event to die there. By luck or resilience, my mother found an insurance company willing to insure the event at a reasonable cause.
One of the first mistakes I avoided was thanks to my cousin. As you can tell in the gifs above, the tools are a bit higher quality. The sledgehammer alone cost nearly $40 and that was for one. We were looking at Lowes and Home Depot for the place to purchase tools. My cousin, Kenny, recommended we check out Harbor Freight as they always have the best deals. We returned everything (but the spray paint and the caution tape) to Home Depot and went on a bit of a spree at Harbor Freight in two trips. Now we spent double the money at Harbor Freight, but we got 10 tools rather than three.
Glass, Glass, Glass, Glass. Glass was a mistake from the beginning. We learned that very, very quickly when we were testing what smashing a car was like. We wanted to know if glass was a good idea. Spoiler alert: it looks cool, but it isn’t cool when you get hurt or when you have to clean up.
From the moment we got the approval of insurance to the event was about two and a half weeks tops. We needed to choose a charity. I wanted the FoodBank of New Jersey for the sole reason that it was local, but big enough that others can appreciate. I felt that if it was too big, most people wouldn’t care. I applied for the approval to use their name and such, but didn’t hear back originally. After a few days of wondering, we heard back and it was good to go with them.
The Art Direction
After messing around with different idea designs, I went with an OBEY-esque look made famous by the founder, Shepard Fairey. Although, I didn’t finish this poster until after the first struggle and finding out the charity because we didn’t have all the details. Prior, it was just the logo idea rather than the poster design.
This poster ended up being the main focus for the rest of the art. As you see at the top of the page, I used it for banners on Facebook as well as a few advertisements. It also became the front of the t-shirts that were created and sold. Big shout out to Lucky Dog Custom Apparel for taking the poster and turning it into a great design as well as the awesome back. Plus, their screen printing is top notch. Hands down pleasure and they came in clutch (which I’ll explain why below).
Since I used my sister as a model for the gifs and because she wanted to model a little bit, we did some promos for her. It started with a poster. The intention was to create a bad-to-the-bone look for her similar to those in zombie movies mixed into a wrestling or boxing vibe. We came up with this poster.
Needless-to-say she didn’t like it very much because she didn’t like the image I used. After revisiting the whole modeling with my friend Russell, we used these images for Facebook advertisements.
This was the first real event that I have promoted outside of Facebook. I say that as in college we did hang posters for some parties. I guess that can be considered some experience. This was still somewhat of a new adventure for me. I wanted to have a decent marketing budget, but not go overboard. Before breaking them down, I’ll list everything I did.
- Print 60 posters that I showed above and hung them up around Mays Landing.
- Posted frequently on the Facebook Page.
- Made a few memes and posted them on the Facebook Page.
- Make an event page on Facebook.
- All types of Facebook advertisements.
- Make a website landing page.
- Created two video trailers.
- Took over Kneble’s Auto’s weekly show.
- Posted on NJ.com Events, AC Weekly Events, ShoreNewsToday Events.
- Went on Facebook Live.
- The posters were as shown above. After realizing very quickly that 99% of the corporate stores weren’t going to let me hang up a sign, I went to all of the small businesses around town. I went to all the restaurants, stores, and every place that I could think of. I would say that just about all of them were receptive and very encouraging about the event especially after they heard it was for charity.
- The idea was to keep the car smash relevant with the customers and those who like the page.
- The memes were a result of me having fun with the footage from the videos. I saw some pages pull it off and I thought it was interesting. I must say the creativity makes it a bit more difficult to come up with something on the spot. I feel like this content was better as it was original.
- Facebook event page was a must. Facebook does a great job with notifications to individuals when posts are made and such. Plus, it gives reminders about said event in the notifications. Although, they don’t usually have a good representation of numbers. Engagement is a better way to gauge it, but even still.
- Facebook advertisements was the main outlet for advertising. I focused on three outlets when it came to advertisements – engagement, video views, and event responses. Everything was monitored and tweaked to how people responded towards the ads and the pay per engagement.
- The website landing page was quintessential. As this was a small time event, it didn’t require a whole website. Everything including the contact form could fit on one page. It was tweaked when need be.
- Here are the two trailers I made to hype the event. It was originally going to be one, but I have been wanting to mess around with my video skills.
- My mother’s video segment is highly regarded and loved by all. I didn’t want something where people wouldn’t watch because she wasn’t in the video. A bit of clickbait involved, but she loved the idea and was fully onboard. I gave it the “hacked” feeling.
- I am unsure who actually checks them out, but seeing as it was free, I posted on NJ.com Events, AC Weekly Events, ShoreNewsToday Events. I believe I saw two visitors from AC Weekly, but that may have been me.
- Went on Facebook Live. It is about getting up and personal. This is not about just marketing, but documenting for everyone. This was me talking the day before the event as we were setting up.
During the Event
- Snapchat Filter for the whole event.
- Intended on going on Facebook Live.*
- I love creating custom Snapchat filters and I had to make one for the event. Here is the version we ended up going with (shown in video form).
- I have to put an asterisk on this. I had intended on going on Facebook Live, but I didn’t anticipate the slowness between individuals and the fact that I had to either record on my DSLR, go on Facebook Live, or handle the participant by myself. Needless to say, Facebook Live didn’t seem ideal.
- Facebook Post thanking the volunteers and the sponsors.
- Intended on posting photos of those participating.
- Montage post mini movie.
- Facebook advertisement.
- A press release about the money donated.
- It took me about a week to get the post out, but I wanted something that includes everyone. I wanted to thank everyone that came out. I also wanted the video done. The video took a bit longer than anticipated, but I wanted something perfect. Here is the Facebook post.
- I wanted to do some photographing of the event. Once again, the lack of volunteers working made this very difficult. Plus, I feel like in the end, video dominates.
- As shown in the Facebook post above (and the YouTube video below), I created a video highlighting all of the volunteers and individuals that participated. I can say for sure that everyone that was videotaped was included in the video. I loved that we had the Mayor and former Mayor featured as well.
- The Facebook advertisement was essentially the full post I did above, but without all the links as Facebook made it weird to boost the post. It also included the video.
- The press release (at the time of writing this) has not been done. We were in touch with the press who said he was getting in touch with the Food Bank. We haven’t heard back yet.
What Fell Short
I cannot say that this event was an overwhelming success. I am happy it turned out well. I am happy we raised money for the Food Bank. I am happy that something that I came up with was seen from start to finish. I understand that I am being super harsh on myself, but here are my criticisms of my own event.
Location. Location. Location.
I believe that my number one issue was location of my event. The car smash really relies on eyes. It is sort of a catch 22. You get people by other seeing people on it. It will snowball. It never got that opportunity. Let me explain with some visual help.
You see, it was expected that being up front would benefit us as everyone would see it as they walked in. Here is why that didn’t necessarily work.
- The sound wasn’t as loud as expected. Yes, we were slamming hammers into metal, but the sound didn’t overshadow the natural noise nor music. With that knowledge now, we don’t have to be in the corner of the event anymore.
- The front isn’t as visible as you’d think. Despite the fence not being completely covered, it is still hard to see through from a distance.
- We were told people would walk past the car smash to enter the event. This turned out not the be the case because of the animals, paintball, and the car show.
- Our tent was behind everyone else’s tent. Thus, we saw no foot traffic and it was hard to see the cars all together.
If we were located in the center where the sand was, we would have been a spectacle that essentially couldn’t be avoided and in turn saw much more foot traffic and eventually more participants.
This was a personal mistake that wasn’t really understood until we were in the middle of the event. This event was a cash only event. I thought I had figured it out by charging:
- $5 for 3 swings.
- $15 for 2 minutes free for all.
This would change if you bought a t-shirt.
- $15 for 3 swings and a t-shirt
- $25 for 2 minutes free for all and a t-shirt
The issue I ran into is making change or the amount of cash people had on them. I should have figured it out to make it easier for individuals. This also runs into another issue.
This is so silly and the fact that we tried to prevent this ahead of time really made me laugh at this scenario. We purposely tested this with a few people as you read. There were certain variables that we didn’t intend on.
The idea behind three swings was something of more of a taste of what to expect. This was meant for solely sledgehammers rather than the smaller hammers or crowbars. Also, I expected people to not just hit the same spot over and over. Essentially, the three swings wouldn’t take 10 seconds, but rather they would take their time.
The opposite happened.
Two minutes was more ideal, but the issue was that people didn’t want to spend $15 as that’s an odd cash amount. Plus, this allowed people to use the spray paint which they loved.
This was an idea that I had that was a bit more overzealous than I intended. I had created a purchased a backdrop. The original idea was to corral people into the area. They would hit the car. Afterwards, they’d bring their tools of destruction to the backdrop, take a photo, and either leave or watch. This never came into fruition as the setup wasn’t completely conducive for the setup. Thankfully, we are able to use it for future events.
Location, Demographics, and Awareness
This one was out of my hands. I was hesitant about mentioning this, but it is apart of what we went through and it could help those in the future.
The Hometown Celebration was held at Lake Lenape East in Mays Landing, New Jersey. For those who are familiar with the lake, you would know that getting there isn’t difficult, but it isn’t easy for first timers.
As you can see on the map, the main way (as there are technically many ways to get there) to go to the park is via 13th off of Cape May Avenue (Route 50) which has a speed limit of 30-50 mph (depending where you turn). There was no sign that the festival was happening. Being that the park is a bit back off the main road, it isn’t like people can see what is going on and just stop out of curiosity.
The marketing for the Hometown Celebration consisted of posters which I hung up in addition to the car smash posters, a big sign at the corner of Cape May Avenue (Route 50) and Main Street (Route 40) at War Memorial Park, a few Facebook posts, and only one paid ad. Being that Mays Landing / Hamilton Township is one of the biggest cities in New Jersey, I didn’t believe this was sufficient. I can accurately say this as the majority of individuals I talked to about the car smash was unaware about the Hometown Celebration.
The biggest issue I brought to the attention of the Hometown Celebration committee was the lack of represented demographics. I explained that they were only appealing to young children and their accompanying families. It isn’t meant for anyone else whatsoever. While we made the car smash available to everyone, certain parents felt that this wasn’t appropriate for their kids regardless of others being before them.
What I Can / Will Change
Being that this event can be treated as a learning curve and being that I have a number of criticisms, I also believe I have some solutions to improve for future car smash events.
As noted, I bought a ton of stuff for this event. Shirts, hammers, crowbars, etc. All of this was fine besides the spray paint and the t-shirts. While the spray paint didn’t make up a big part of the budget, the shirts made up about half of the budget. The good news is that we returned the leftover spray paint. We did sell some of the shirts, but we have a ton of leftovers. Thankfully, I didn’t put any date on the shirts specifically if this scenario arose. I am ecstatic that we changed (thanks to my mother’s suggestion) the t-shirt count from 250 to 125. Still took a hit, but great for future events.
Next time, I won’t buy as many shirts nor spray paint. The amount of tools was perfect because as predicted, I felt like one or two hammers would eventually break. One sledgehammer handle shattered.
I didn’t really put much effort into the fence, but this became an area that we would improve upon next event. We had tubes and cones that would surround the cars and we used caution tape. They didn’t hold up well against the wind. I would purchase some high stakes that we can hammer into the ground and then create a more stable fence.
In any future car smash, I would remove the whole 3 swings opportunity. If I had to do this again, I would have the choices of:
- 1 minute free for all
- 2 minutes free for all
Three swings wasn’t enough to justify the cost in my opinion. I want the most bang for your buck (pun intended) especially since this is for charity and we’re not cutting margins. This would also allow for anyone to use the spray paint since we have a variable (time) to measure.
This is the hardest part of it all. Ideally, I would do it:
- $10 for 1 minute
- $20 for 2 minutes and a t-shirt
I suggest that not because I am trying to extort the prices, but basing it off of the currency people carried. $20 bill is most frequently carried bill. $5 is not. $10 is what seemed like the second most carried bill. This way, we can essentially justify dropping $20 for two minutes as you also get a t-shirt. The profit margin for both would come out to approximately:
- $10 for 1 minute
- $13 for 2 minutes as the shirts cost ~$7
That would be so much more ideal. Although, that margin could be higher if you have more shirts made up. I was trying to cover the cost of the shirts and make a profit to donate from the shirts. This really depends on your preference and the socioeconomic climate of the area you’re holding your event.
After some significant thought, I do not think that in the near future that the Mays Landing Hometown Celebration is ideal for future car smash events. This was a hard decision, but the results do not warrant the cost nor the effort taken place. We were hearing a lot of chatter and great things revolving around the car smash leading up to the event. This chatter even provoked us into using two vehicles because we thought we would have to accommodate the extra attention. Between the lack of proper demographic and our location, we weren’t as successful as we wanted.
I want it to be absolutely clear that I would hold this event again. Running a car smash whether it is incredibly popular or not is a lot of fun. It did wonders from a branding standpoint as everyone was talking about it and Kneble’s Auto. That said, this would work wonders in a more appropriate venue. I had a blast planning and working on this event. It seemed surreal that it was over after planning and coordinating. While I didn’t hit my fundraising goals, it brought a newfound sense of enjoyment and plenty of knowledge. We have everything we want and need to move forward for a better result!