Archive for the ‘Promotions’ Category

Service of Marketing that Hits a Sour Note: Details and the Devil

Thursday, January 19th, 2017

New Yorker circ photo

I bought some items online during an after Christmas sale and almost three weeks later got a notice from the store that one of the items wasn’t available. OK. That happens. “LET US MAKE IT UP TO YOU,” came a proposal for a “gift”–$10 off a $100 purchase. This hit a sour note: It sounded like “heads they win; tails I lose.” Otherwise I like the store.

The next two examples are courtesy of the circulation departments of a magazine and newspaper considered top of the line in their categories. I subscribe to and admire both. However, they appear to be trying to save money by selecting under par fulfillment and promotion partners at just the time they need to excel.

  • The magazine has been nagging me to renew my subscription months early and if I do, I’ll get a free subscription as a gift. [Always suspicious, I envision losing the months I’ve already paid for, between now and the end of the original subscription, and I don’t want to waste time untangling this potential glitch.] Fine writing and elegance are just two of the magazine’s selling points and the subscription is costly. That’s why I didn’t expect to see a typo in the first word of the third line ["your"] printed on a piece of cheap scrap paper enclosed in their correspondence seeking my business. [See photo above.]
  • The newspaper didn’t deliver its weekend and Monday issues last week. I called customer service on Tuesday making clear that we didn’t want the credit, we wanted the newspapers. The operator [from a far-off land] said he understood. On Wednesday we received a second copy of the Tuesday issue. I called back and was told they would have to mail us the weekend and Monday copies and that this would take from seven to 10 days. I had already spent far too much time on this mistake and snapped “fine, do that,” and hung up. Still waiting.
  • All this reminds me of a restaurant we went to in the Berkshires years ago that served remarkable food in an enchanting setting with a terrible hostess who ran the room like a general during a military operation readiness inspection {ORI}. The tension her approach achieved added a false note to an otherwise pleasant experience. We learned later that her husband was the chef. Nevertheless, she ruined the evening.

Do you have other examples of an irritating detail that conflicted with the otherwise high quality of a product or service?

$10 off $100 turned

Service of Reading the Fine Print and Your Emails: Amazon’s Subscribe and Save Program

Monday, September 26th, 2016

terms and conditions

I’m not a fan of automatic anything. When I buy OTC items from a drugstore website, I’m asked if I’d like a monthly order of shampoo, toothpaste, vitamins or makeup. No thanks.

So I didn’t know about Amazon’s Subscribe and Save program where people sign up to get repeat orders of staples like coffee or trash bags. It should be called Subscribe and Sometimes Save. It’s a great example of people signing up for something they haven’t looked into carefully and being duped into thinking they are always getting a good deal.

toothpasteAccording to Brian X. Chen in his New York Times article, “Subscribe and Save on Amazon? Don’t Count on It,” the company’s pricing model doesn’t always work out in the customer’s favor. “Any sticker shock, analysts said, may be the result of Amazon’s complex pricing system coming into conflict with consumer expectations of a traditional subscription.”

He wrote that Amazon “frequently adjusts item prices based on a sophisticated set of variables like supply and demand, time of day and prices offered by competitors.” He shared the insight of Jared Wiesel, a partner at consulting firm Revenue Analytics. It “is the company’s way of making it look as if you are always getting the best deal.”

chewing gumChen identified one customer who paid $10 for gum when signing up and was charged $100 on the repeat. “Prices of most items, including dishwasher soap and toilet bowl cleaner, changed frequently. As often as weekly, prices rose, dipped and rose again like a roller coaster. In extreme cases, prices for items like instant coffee and napkins jumped between 90 and 170 percent.”

  • A 30.5 oz tub of Folgers ranged from $6.64 in June to $12.50 in August.
  • Vanity Fair napkins moved from $7.94 in May to $21.46 in June/July and $15.36 in August.
  • More high/lows include an air purifier filter and humidifier filter, $18.06 to $33.24 and $$4.67 to $11.27 respectively.

Participants are given a chance to opt out. Amazon sends them an email 10 days before a delivery with the price they’ll be paying and they can cancel. I suppose not everyone reads them.

The trouble with the concept, according to Wiesel is: “I think they’ve violated the psychological concept of a subscription with their customers in changing prices like this. When people think of a subscription, they think of locking in a set cadence of receiving a good.”

Chen offers a solution: “If you truly want to save money on Amazon, one approach is to sign up for price alerts on Camel Camel Camel to get an email when a price drops to a desired amount. When that happens, manually reorder — yes, that’s an extra step — your instant coffee, toilet cleaner or lint rollers.” [Camel Camel Camel is an Amazon price tracker Chen explained.]

Why should Amazon change an eyelash on this or any other of its programs? In the last 17 months its stock price closed at a high of $800, more than doubling in 17 months.

Do you automatically receive anything from Amazon or any other company? Have you fallen for a deal that seemed great only to learn it’s more complicated—and not as great–as you first thought?

Camel

Service of a Country Garage Sale Produced by a City Slicker

Monday, September 19th, 2016

Garage sale signs in trunk

I’ve always thought I’d have enjoyed–and if lucky, might have succeeded at–being in the retail industry. [Promoting new products for clients, which I’ve done for years, is on the cusp of the world of retail and doesn’t count.] So I didn’t reject as nuts my nephew Edward’s suggestion to conduct a garage sale. I didn’t have much time to pull it together—who does? Still I had fun. 

Garage sale kitchenWhat was most surprising?

  •  People came. We live on a quiet country road with microscopic through-traffic–few passers-by ever. The Craigslist posting and Garage Sale signs on the two roads that cap ours were most effective in alerting visitors as far as we could tell. I also wrote copy for a county garage sale site.
  • Edward predicted that people would take free stuff that had been left behind under a deck by a series of tenants, various construction projects and previous owners. He was right. He said folks would drive on the property with their pickups and so they did. Saved us from having to lug away stuff.
  • Garage Sale 2016 DumpsterThere was a dumpster outside the garage with plenty of things I’d rejected for the sale. [At one yard sale I attended I was alarmed by well-used bedroom slippers for sale. Yech. I wanted none of that at my sale.] Nevertheless, visitors jumped in and sorted through the dumpster as well. Some asked before doing so. Others just dove in. “Might I have your slides?” said one woman straddling four boxes from the period I was an Air Force wife living in Turkey. She said “people like travel slides.”
  • One woman buying two $2 wine glasses asked if I could wrap them. [Like everyone else, she arrived in a car with front and back seats to keep them apart and safe; did she think this was a boutique?] I wrapped–but wondered.
  • Hardcovers and paperbacks sold well. I charged $1 and 50 cents respectively. 

Some tips

  •  I was prepared for people to arrive early—David Reich gave me a copy of a New York Times article he’d written, “First Time for a Garage Sale,” where he reported early bargain hunters knocked on his door at 7:15 a.m. for a 10 a.m. sale. My earliest visitors came just before 9 and I let them in. [I posted my street signs at 6 a.m. and was raring to go.]
  • One of my customers told me that I should have saved the towels tossed in the dumpster to give to the local SPCA for the animals. He would have salvaged them, he said, but they were wet. Next time.
  • I was concerned about inviting strangers. What if one had nefarious plans to revisit us after the sale? Edward suggested I buy a “Beware of Dog” sign along with the “Garage Sale” signs. I did.
  • Speaking of signs, I didn’t notice until I wrote the address and time on them that the Garage Sale signs were not printed on both sides so I had to return to the store to get another set. Back-to-back they both fit in the metal braces that stick in the ground.
  • garage sale books turnedI priced cheaply. The idea was to find a home for things, not to make a killing. Several people told me I had priced well for a garage sale so I guess I got that right, though some left empty-handed. I grossed just under $600.
  • I wasn’t selling power tools but there were requests for these; for books about engineering that I didn’t have either and for anything—art or books—about the surrounding area. These I had and sold. Remember where you squirrel things.

Can you share your garage sale experiences as visitor or producer? Any great finds from yard or garage sales you’ve attended?

Garage sale art turned

 

Service of How Much Will You Do to Win a Prize?

Thursday, May 5th, 2016

winning raffle ticket

It’s fun to win a prize which is why raffles are so popular, lucrative for charities and an easy way to gather business cards at events, at retail, restaurants and other businesses. It’s one thing to pull out a card from wallet or handbag and another to work for the prize. The question is, how hard will you try?

Coupon

coupon 4A friend hoped to receive a $75 coupon from a major retailer. First she posted something about the brand and the offer on Facebook; next she sent it to 15 friends and after doing that, learned she had to share it with groups. She wrote, “That’s when I gave up.”

Survey

After a major or minor purchase I’m willing to fill out a survey and several times have stopped after only a few questions, even if there’s promise of a major prize for one of the respondents. I’m happy to share my impressions of a product or service, and to provide additional comments to flesh out why I clicked 10 or one to indicate “great” or “lousy.” SurveyHere’s my limit: I don’t want my personal information flying around the Internet any more than it already does, nor do I want to land in that brand’s metadata pool to receive every advert popup it deems perfect for me. Ask me my income, age, weight and lock me on that question so I can’t move to the next one if I don’t respond, and you’ve lost me.

Game

A grocery store I go to on occasional Saturdays was conducting a Monopoly game. You’d be given tiny pieces to stick on the game board depending on how much you bought. It was easy to match the pieces to the board while watching TV. I never came close to winning any of the many prizes as most of the new pieces duplicated ones I already had. I never bought anything I didn’t need in order to get more pieces so the store and I came out even: neither won. The game–the first I remember playing–was over this week.

Have you received generous coupons for completing tasks or won any of the prizes online surveys tempt you with, or stopped when you didn’t like the personal information survey takers asked for or won a grocery store game? How much will you do to win a prize or do you never bother? Do you think survey takers care less about how you rate their products and really want to know more about their customers?

Acme winning Monopoly game board

Service of Traditional, Faux and Inadvertent Marketing: Mother’s Day, Gold Toilet & Promposal

Monday, April 25th, 2016

MarketingMost marketing promotions are designed to push product, an organization or initiative and are created by those who benefit. Some are dressed up to look like art or charitable generosity but are really to raise the visibility of merchandise, an association, cause or person. And sometimes groups of people support a concept that, as luck would have it, benefits businesses.

Traditional Marketing

I must have had marketing in my veins when, as a kid, I didn’t get why Mother’s Day irritated my Mother's Daymom so much. She thought it was a fabrication to sell cards, candy, flowers and restaurant reservations. As an adult, I’ve helped countless clients to sell their products, services and concepts, which may be why I always appreciated the Mother’s Day ritual. I also love to give gifts and to celebrate occasions. With the exception of Father’s Day, I don’t think many of the offshoots such as secretary’s or boss’s day have done nearly as well.

Marketing in Sheep’s Clothing

Gold Toilet on NYT pageArtist Maurizio Cattelan or his handlers pulled off the second kind of marketing scheme with his sculpture of a gold working toilet that the Guggenheim Museum is installing. You couldn’t miss a giant shot of it on the front page of The New York Times’ “TheArts” section last week that topped serious copy about it. In fact it appeared all over the place. To pragmatist me, it’s ridiculous, has nothing to do with art and everything to do with getting the artist’s name front and center–but I’m clearly out of step.

Inadvertent Sales Windfalls

Nancie Steinberg, whose son Austen is a high school senior, shared info about a Promposal Austen 1phenomenon—promposals–that help sell pizzas, poster board, flowers, cake and more. I’m betting that unlike Mother’s Day, teens came up with this activity and that merchants benefit from it. Does it matter, as long as it’s all in good fun and everyone wins?

Promposals were new to me but not to Caitlin Dewey who wrote about them in The Washington Post in 2014 and tracked the first mention of the word to a Dallas Morning News article in 2001. She followed the movement to its “going mainstream” in 2002-2005. In “A Short History of the ‘promposal’” she defined it as “the eyebrow-raising high-school ritual wherein students go to elaborate, terribly public lengths to ask each other to prom.”

Austen presented his date of choice with a rose bedecked sheet cake decorated with “Will You Go To Prom With Me?” in orange frosting [photos right and below]. His friends videotaped and photographed the moment. She said “yes.”

Dewey wrote of boys in Arizona who laid trails of rose petals from a prospective date’s home to the school and a chap in Idaho who secretly set his girlfriend’s alarm to ring at 3 am with a message “Hope its not too late—will you go to the prom with me?” These and others such as hanging signs from highway overpasses, filling yards with balloons or wearing gorilla suits were all done in 2006, before high school kids had access to Facebook and pre Tumblr. YouTube was the place to be then as now. Dewey reports there are 40,000 promposal videos and 900,000 tagged “prom proposal” or “ask cute.”

What are some of your favorite marketing ideas? Any that annoy, surprise or fall flat?

 

Promposal Austen 2

 

 

 

Service of a Day Off to Relax in NYC in December, 2015

Monday, December 7th, 2015

Day off

A friend with a high stress job, kids and an active pro bono life leading an industry association took a day off to relax in New York City, a great thing to do at holiday time. The people she encountered had themselves—not her—in mind. I couldn’t decide if this was due to the difficult economy making people feel desperate or to cultural differences.

FacialHer day began with a facial. She was enjoying it and good conversation with the esthetician [the person giving her the facial], when the woman began a deep-dish sales pitch encouraging her to upgrade the procedure and buy a bunch of packages. She was feeling pressured, but was in a good mood, and as the holidays were coming, she bought some services as gifts.

window shoppingThis done she window shopped, passing a cosmetics business where a woman was handing out samples. She stopped to get one and was told if she went inside she’d get the right product for her skin. She expected the man inside to open a drawer and hand her a sample but before she knew it she was in a chair and he was applying products to her face and arm, telling her she could get a $700 package for $400. She somehow got out of this place unscathed—she’s an international traveler who does business in several continents–but it was still touch and go, the pressure almost frightening. One of the products he applied appeared to perform a miracle under her eyes, though she admitted it felt very tight on her face. When she washed it off that night, nothing had changed.

yelp logoShe sent me a link to some Yelp reviews of this place and I quote from parts of one that I shortened and edited: “The people that work here are the worst. As you approach the storefront, you’ll immediately notice that there are two to three employees standing out front wearing black and white, aggressively attempting to shove flyers and samples into passers-by’s hands. They don’t only pursue tourists. They harass everyone walking by. Today, I was harassed by one of the males.” The man made fun of the writer’s New York accent when the writer told him he wasn’t a tourist. Then the employee and two female colleagues laughed at and mocked him. He concluded: “For your own sake, do not go anywhere near this place.”

Grabbing for your moneyMy friend ended her odyssey by being treated rudely at a restaurant that offered a special lunch price until 3:30. She entered at 3:20 and was immediately told to “Hurry up!” Few of the offerings on the menu were available at the promotional price and when she asked for more fried noodles—that along with the soup were the tastiest part of the meal—the waitress said it would cost an additional $1–and didn’t bring any.

So her relaxing day turned out to be far from it. What’s happening here? The unrestrained sales aggression reminds me of uncomfortable experiences I’ve encountered in some foreign countries. Is this the new American way? Do these businesses rely on one-time sales—and not on the benefit of repeats? I love to shop but this would no longer be true if I encountered too much of this approach.

cringing customer

Service of Sales Promotions: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Thursday, October 29th, 2015

Sales Promotion

Take Care: The Good

I got a generous 30 percent discount offer for online purchases from CVS, a pharmacy chain. Among other things I ordered a $45 OTC product my husband eats like popcorn. I’ve taken advantage of this offer many times.

CVS logoWhether in the store or online, I am very careful to choose the right version as there’s one for kids that looks pretty much the same as the one he uses. So I was surprised when I opened the box and there was the kid’s version. I clearly clicked the wrong package–I hadn’t reviewed the order when the email confirmation arrived. [I'd never made a mistake like this before.] I called customer service, admitted my mistake and was given a bunch of options. I chose to return the box of kid’s stuff to a retail store and the cashier gave me a gift card equivalent to the amount I’d paid: A seamless collaboration between online and retail operations. I’m a fan.

Fishy: The Bad

fresh fishI get email notices of special promotions from a fish store that assumes that everyone has a big family: You get a free pound of the fish of the day if you pay for a pound. If you like fresh fish–which is why people shop here–freezing the extra won’t do. So while it may seem like a great deal, it’s of little use to some–such as me. Why not just offer a smaller percentage off per pound?

Hot Dog! The Ugly

As I left to run errands I noticed a crowd of students who attend a college down the street from my office, gathered around a table on the sidewalk in front of a small food establishment. You often see a person handing out food samples in little cups from a tray. Tables on a city sidewalk are unusual.

hot dogOn my return only three people were in an orderly line so I could see what was on the table and I joined the line.  Along with a sign declaring “free hotdogs” were two bottles of condiments and a tray with the snacks. The line moved quickly, I was next and there was one dog left. Just then a man arrived at the table from the other side and he stopped. The server looked at me, looked at him, and handed him the last hotdog.

I calmly said to the server “You made a mistake. You saw I was next. My office is two doors up. I was about to tell the 10 young men in my office about this business–they order out daily. I won’t now.” She stuttered that there were more inside but I was off.

What a shame: The owner meant well and now someone on staff has turned off a potential customer who will never go inside only to expect to be faced with similar discrimination. Also lost is positive word-of-mouth, the best marketing tool there is for a food place.

Can you share any good or bad promotions of late?

Buy 3 for the price of 3

Service of Shaggy Dog Stories

Monday, May 18th, 2015

shaggy dog 2

You may remember from a previous post the story my dad used to tell about a dog in a small French town who every time he visited the butcher would enjoy a pat and a toothsome bone. One day the butcher played a trick on the dog and he tucked the bone in the dog’s collar, on his back, where the pooch couldn’t reach it. According to Dad, the dog was insulted and never returned.

The rest of this post is also reminiscent of a recent one, “Service of False Advertising.” What’s in the air? It must either be the season or the economy.

30 percent offI fell for a “30 percent off winter coat dry cleaning” poster in the window of a place near my office that I frequented a lot last year. I was shocked when the bill was $17 to clean a simple no-frills jacket and asked about the discount. “That’s been factored in.”

Like the dog, I don’t plan to return. I don’t like being bamboozled. Arf. An upstate dry cleaner, Thims, whose prices have been comparable to this one’s charges $10-$12 [with no discount]. Previously the cost differential on any item was never more than a dollar or two. While rent and salaries are less in Dutchess County, a midtown Manhattan cleaner has a volume that far surpasses that of an upstate business.

And yet I keep falling for these things.

reams of paperI bought a few reams of paper at a major office supply store and sent in the rebate information [which I've done countless times before]. A few weeks later I got a postcard. It said that I hadn’t sent the correct receipt. [There was only one so it was impossible to make a mistake]. Perhaps they were counting on my not having a copy, which I didn’t. I was irritated about wasting my time, won’t be doing the rebate thing again and will also avoid buying that brand of paper.

Is the secret to not being taken to fall for zero promotions, rebates and special offers? Does a business that plays such games think it is following a clever strategy? Are there any legit ones?

Shaggy dog 1

Get This Blog Emailed to You:
Enter your Email


Preview | Powered by FeedBlitz

Clicky Web Analytics