We all love special offers don’t we? How often though can we trust them to live up to their promise? There’s a very wise piece of advice that if something appears to be too good to be true, it probably is. Nothing causes loss of confidence in a company or a brand more than when they fail to deliver on their word.
A promotion which falls flat on its public face is often referred to now as the Hoover effect. In 1992 the British Division of Hoover when faced with the predicament of how to reduce the surplus stock of washing machines and vacuum cleaners in their warehouse, came up with a marketing plan to offer a free pair of round trip tickets for flights to Europe for every sale over £100. The response was completely underestimated and to add to the fiasco, Hoover were unaware of the looming disaster and proceeded to enhance the offer by introducing a second promotion offering return flights to the USA. The company were immediately flooded with applications to redeem coupons and it became impossible to keep up with the demand. It cost Hoover close to 50 million pounds and involved a lengthy court case, spearheaded by the Hoover Holidays Pressure Group.
You may be curious as to why I’ve resurrected the 20 year old account of a failed marketing campaign. I’ve used it as an example of how, if a company fails to calculate the consumer’s positive or negative response to a special offer, the cost in both damage to the brand reputation and loss of profits can be immeasurable. The promotion currently running in a national tabloid newspaper is a prime example. The launch of a new ‘rewards club’ requires readers to purchase the weekend editions over a number of weeks, register membership online and send in a series of coupon codes for a variety of £5 gift vouchers to be redeemed in supermarkets, petrol stations, restaurants etc. It sounds fairly simple doesn’t it? Apart for the fact that the marketing team presumably underestimated the number of uptakes, with launch vouchers still sitting in the warehouse after several weeks due to an ‘unexpected level of demand’. Another fatal error when you’re offering your customer a good deal is to fail to make it clear what the terms and conditions are. If you try to wriggle out of what the consumer believes to be a perfectly legitimate claim, it’s hardly going to put the company in a good light. In a number of newspapers the coupons were missing. An instruction advised readers to call a designated number ‘today’ for a coupon code (at the callers own cost), with no date. If you didn’t read your magazine supplement until a day or two later you’d have missed the deadline for claiming the missing code, with just a pre-recorded message telling you ‘today’ referred to Sunday only. Their mistake, your loss. Admittedly not likely to result in a court claim, but aggrieved readers on mass may well reduce sales.
A special offer as with any product or service has to live up to the brand promise or your consumers will feel they’ve been hoodwinked. Your market audience may not come baying for your blood, but they may well lose confidence and take their business elsewhere. Now has anyone got that missing voucher code?