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Yep, that's me, years ago. Still have the hat.

Today is Mardi Gras, which is a very special holiday at this New York marketing agency. I spent my formative adult years in New Orleans, graduating from Tulane University in 2007. I’m a veteran of eight Carnivale seasons as a proud resident of the Crescent City. I’ve got the beads (and Muses shoes) to prove it.

We try to bring some of that distinctive New Orleans flair to everything we do at Digital Pudding. The experience shapes my personal worldview and informs my decisions as the leader of our team. Yes, I’m wearing my jester hat in the office today. I also know that a little fun and levity can help you focus when the time is right.

In fact, there are a bunch of lessons you could learn from the Carnivale season in New Orleans and apply them to your business. Here are some of my personal favorites.

Everyone Likes A Spectacle

It’s said that the population of New Orleans doubles in the weeks leading up to Mardi Gras. People are drawn to the event from all over the world. The parades. The food. The atmosphere. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience that you’ll only find in a certain time and place. There’s a reason Tennessee Williams only believed America had three cities.

That’s powerful branding advice. Go beyond the basics of marketing. Be known for over the top customer service. Provide an experience worth remembering and sharing. If you can superserve in your niche to clients whom love you, you become known. Word spreads of your legend and you attract new business as a result.

You can’t do that halfway, though. You have to be fully committed to what it is you want to do and how you want to make people feel. Then, do it big in meaningful ways. That’s how you create lasting relationships with customers that keep producing revenue over time.

Let Principles Guide Your Actions

Most people don’t realize that Mardi Gras is a Catholic holiday. It’s the big party leading up to the start of Lent. Basically, get all your sins out on Fat Tuesday and confess the next day, Ash Wednesday. Without that, there’s no reason for the season.

To the outsider, the celebration looks like chaos. There are rules, though. Many unspoken, some explicit. Throws that drop on the ground are off limits. Respect the space around ladder chairs. Make sure the marching bands have room to swing their trombones.

So what are the rules and traditions that inform your business? How do you stick to a set of guidelines in everything you do? Don’t be chaos. Be a structured party where everyone knows what they’re doing and you exceed expectations as a result.

Give Away Stuff For Free

One of the most famous aspects of Mardi Gras is the parades. Organized by krewes, they roll through the city in the days leading up to Fat Tuesday. Each is known to throw trinkets like beads, doubloons, footballs, frisbees, boas and more off their floats.

Turns out people love free stuff, especially when it’s perceived to be a scarce resource. You only want that string of beads while it’s in the air. (Remember, if it falls to the ground, it’s gone forever.) Some throws, like those aforementioned Muses shoes, become trophies.

What kinds of “throws” can you offer? Limited time resources of high perceived value? Maybe it’s a talk to a group of business owners. Maybe you can offer a little something extra to your customer with their order. Free gift with purchase? Extra deals just for being them? Down in Louisiana, that’s called “lagniappe” and it’s treasured. Identify your lagniappe and brand it.

Stand Out From The Crowd

When it comes to catching throws, you need a gameplan. My strategy was always wearing a bright orange New York Islanders jersey (pictured above) so that float riders could pick me out. One year, I even had a plastic purple horn that I would blow during the parade. I got pelted with so many bags of beads to shut me up.

How do you stand out from the crowd of people all looking for the same beads you are? By beads, I mean customers. What are you doing different? How will people notice you? What spectacle draws them to you?

One way we do that is through our name, Digital Pudding. It’s odd, for sure. Still, you want to learn more when you hear about it. Why pudding? You’re now asking me for more information, which is when you can make a real impact. Find that little thing to help you stick out from the crowd and make you memorable. Be extraordinary.

Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler

It’s amazing how almost anything can teach you something about business. My young adult years in New Orleans continue to influence the company I run today. That’s no accident. There’s tons you can learn about how to run an effective business from the annual Mardi Gras celebration. These are just some of the most noteworthy lessons.

And if you haven’t yet had the pleasure to experience the spectacle that is a New Orleans Mardi Gras, do it. It’s worth the time. Take your children. It’s really more like a citywide block party than anything you might think. Share a culture that is unique in America with your entire family.

In the meantime, heed this advice and let the good times roll this year!

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