Monday, December 5, 2011

Marketing Made Queasy

I know Black Friday is already a week and a half in the rear view mirror, but we all know shop-a-holics show no signs of slowing down until either A: they run out of funds (and even sometimes that won't stop them) or B: it's January 2nd, we're back to work, and the credit card company has an express order on our heads and bank account.  I was one of the not so few that ventured out on Thanksgiving NIGHT, at 10:00pm, to take advantage of some great savings, and avoid the lines that were sure to follow come Friday morning.  Or so I thought.

It's one of those situations when everyone thinks nobody is, naturally everybody goes.  Like the supposedly "slow times" at Disney World.  You show up, expecting to waltz right to the front of the line, get your thrills in, and ride each ride till you reach your food containment limit.  What you get is tens of thousands of other people who thought the same thing, leaving you seriously considering the idea of a mass theme park conspiracy.  They get the crowds, your money, while you contemplate leaving your family to fend for themselves so you can hit every "single-rider" line in the vicinity.

There are genius marketing ploys, and then there are epic failures.  One (of many) Black Friday Fails that I was able to witness was at Perfumania.  Surprised?  Didn't think so.  General rule of thumb for me is anything with "mania" attached to the end of something usually makes me want to run in the opposite direction.  I wont eat from a "BurgerMania" or get a haircut from a "BarberMania" or get a root canal from "DentalMania".  Seriously, it conveys a message of......well.....mania!  And though the Maniac's were in full force this Black Friday, it surely wasn't because this marketing piece below:

I can't understand why a Superman Cologne and Body Wash package would be on clearance......oh wait, that's right, because kids don't wear cologne or use body wash!!  That's not even the biggest fail here.  Look closely at the price tag and you'll see:

Your Price:  $17.95

directly below that....

Suggested:  $00

That's not a typo.  We weren't given a Progressive price gun and able to "name your price" on anything in the store.  This was one of several "gift boxes" that were labeled that way.  I may not have a PHD in marketing, but as a business owner I know that if I charge someone $20 for something, and tell them it's worth NOTHING, business might slow down on any day not Friday, November 26th.

Innocent?  Probably.  But still not forgivable.  I was tempted to take it to the register and confess, "Ma'am, if it's all the same to you, I'd PREFER the "suggested retail price" over the "sale price"."  But, standing in line for 35 minutes to make a point didn't seem to represent the spirit of the season well.  Cooler heads prevailed, and off we went to see what other stores had in store for us.  Most did everything in their power to get our attention, from making employees sing outside of the store, or dressing them up as monkeys, or superheros, or Mr. Claus.  Which, by the way, doesn't work either.

I have yet to buy a new mattress because some out-of-touch manager forced a part-time employee to dress up as a Ninja Turtle and wave to oncoming traffic, while risking life and shell for $10/hr.  Like I said, some ploys are genius, some are failures.  Our job, as a business owner, or any type of professional, is to find a way to connect with potential customers in a way that they find valuable.  During Black Friday, it's about price most certainly over convenience.  In your line of work it may be different.

Maybe showing your customers that your highly accessible is a way you can market yourself.  In insurance, we take an "advisory" approach - saving clients money and time, while protecting their family from financial shortfalls in the event of a injury, illness or death.  That may sound "scripted", but only because it's something we've internalized.  You must find marketing principles that work, internalize them, and then use them to THEIR advantage - not yours.  Doing this will still make you a super hero without having to dress up like one, and you might even hear a client say "Cow-A-Bunga Dude!"

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