The Million Dollar Idea — New and Old Promotions to Pilfer
In the early fifties a long forgotten television executive wearing a super thin tie had an epiphany that would spark a groundbreaking promotional idea. Legend has it that New York City affiliate WWOR first exploited the concept of the Million Dollar Movie to promote the television broadcasts of cinematic efforts that had a production cost of a million dollars or more which was a big budget in ‘50s and ‘60s.
Although it excited viewing audiences for years, the Million Dollar Movie has been long forgotten in this age of on-demand T.V and multi-million dollar blockbusters. Since the idea first blasted onto black and white screens, every other local, regional and national broadcast company has cloned some version of the concept until it's a meaningless cliché and usually indicates a B-movie.
That's the way it goes with good ideas. If they really are good they're lifted by the less creative members of your market segment and eventually by companies in other categories until their appeal doesn't have any power.
Do you get stoked by the annual President’s Day sales that many of the Route 422 corridor's furniture and automobile dealers are obligated to drag back each year? No, because the concept is so old and so tired that the cliché often dilutes the message. The sale could be significant but you've heard it all before just like the movie might be good but the chances that it is... aren't.
All of that being said, today's hipper brands are embracing promotional ideas of yesteryear and having success breathing new life into old concepts, many of which have moved from cliché to bromide.
In the early 1980s, buy one get one free was a popular marketing tool employed by record companies to sell compilation albums– double albums that were unattached and could not be purchased separately. By the mid 1980s the novelty had largely worn off but retailers in other categories had already begun absconding the idea. Originally, "buy one get one free" was a sudden end-of-season or stock clearance method used by shops who were left with a large quantity of stock that they were looking to sell quickly but it has become a strategic marketing method. Cleverly marketed as BOGOF or BOGO, "buy one, get one free" made a strong resurgence in retail sectors even before the current recession that has made the perceived value of this promotion very popular.
Another retail promotion expected to make a comeback this spring is the sidewalk sale. Originally promoted by the Main Street shops in small town America, the sidewalk sale was designed to blowout winter inventories but the unexpected benefit of merchant collaboration made joint promotions like "Sidewalk Sale Days" a viable community building program. With the positive leadership of organizations like PABA, the Phoenixville Area Business Association, and the consistent growth of local merchant centers in Phoenixville, Pottstown, Spring City and Collegeville, this is another old idea that could be made new again.
It's been a long, gray winter and surprising patrons with bargains in fresh and compelling ways– even if they're a new take on an old idea– can energize the buyer's experience. Traditional retail continues to take a hit from online competitors but with warmer weather comes the consumer's unending desire to go out into the world and spend money. And if your new and improved sidewalk sale doesn't do the trick you can always consider a virtual sidewalk sale as a unique Internet promotion.
Marketing promotions are all about getting noticed. Be different enough that you create a "position" for your offering in the mind of your target audience. Something like the Virtual Sidewalk Sale is a unique and new spin on a clichéd concept. How about Buy One, Get Ten Free? Consider the Million Dollar Meetup where every purchase gets a lottery ticket.
VFC recently ran a promotional campaign mimicking the National Economic Stimulus package wherein our client offered economic stimulus in the form of a sale. In the end it was really just a sale but customers identified with the terminology and equated it to significant savings and, quite possibly, that by making a purchase they were behaving patriotically.
Promotional marketing programs often appeal to the sensibilities of the group rather than an individual. While display ad campaigns generally attempt to speak to an individual's emotions, like improve your health, marketing promotions often appeal to a group culture like patriotism.
Some memorable marketing is based completely on being different. Christmas in July sales come to mind but we have another client who sends out Happy Spring baskets instead of competing to get noticed with everyone else in December.
It's important to run the numbers before you undertake any promotion but often times you can make out when you give something away. When consumers believe they're getting something of value they are more likely to make a purchase.
Chain restaurants and other national companies are always reinventing old promotions to attempt to inject new interest in them. USA Today reported that, "in the economic downturn, two-for-one offers are showing up so many industries at once — from restaurants to retailers to telecommunications companies. Even some car dealers and home sellers are testing twofers."
San Diego home builder Michael Crews had a "Buy one home, get one free" offer and customers who bought a $1.6 million estate home would get a $399,900 row home for “free.”
There are loads of other tried and true, to stick with the cliché theme, marketing promotions that can be recycled in 2009 to combat a recession and ramp up interest in whatever you're selling. The trick with utilizing a marketing program that the public has become desensitized by is to change it up enough to make it compelling. Inject all of the energy and creativity that you can into your next promotion whether it’s your own invention or your very own brand new idea that someone else will notice and use.