Two Birds, One Stone

As a marketing professional, I try to be responsible and pay attention to other people’s marketing efforts.

And I’m often stymied by what passes as good marketing these days. I just have to vent about a couple examples of prime marketing stupidity from two companies that I really thought knew better:

Example One: Lululemon

I was picking up some new gym clothes at Lululemon a while back, and along with my $100+ in items, I was given one of their ubiquitous bags to schlep my purchases home in. It’s nice and all, because I happen to like reusable bags, and I’m pleased the company is giving them away (instead of charging a buck or two, like just about everyone else).

But then they went and ruined it all for me. The enthusiastic checkout person gleefully informed me that if I brought back the bag for my next purchase, I’d get FIFTY WHOLE CENTS off!

$0.50

Right.

The cheapest item I’ve seen at Lulu is an $8 headband. In my experience, the average item runs at about $50 (basic shirts, sports bras, shorts) and many items retail in the $75-$100 range (jackets, fancy pants).

If I’m shopping at Lululemon at all, $0.50 is NOT going to incent me to remember my bag. If I’m a regular Lululemon shopper, I might lose more than $0.50/week in dropped change. Not to mention that if I forget my bag, I now get another one for the low, low price of not receiving my $0.50 discount.

Why not say that for every time I remember my bag, you’ll donate $0.50 to an environmental charity? Keep a running tally of how many shoppers have contributed to that particular endeavor by remembering their bags. Then kick it up a notch at the end of whatever year you’re following by matching all those “shopper contributions” – now forgetting my bag costs the charity $1 (and costs me a bit of shame in front of my fellow Lulu shoppers as I check out).

But a lousy $0.50 off for me? Keep it. Use it to hire a better marketing team.

Example Two: Apple

I just just (like 10 seconds ago) got an email from Apple. This is not new. I get emails from Apple all the time. Product updates, iTunes receipts, ads, whatever. I subscribe to them and expect it.

What I don’t expect is blanket “dumb” marketing from a company who’s built a business on being elegant and savvy to a generation of media and tech-savvy consumers.

I got an email inviting me to download the BIG! FAST! NEW! FANCY! iTunes 8! WITH GENIUS!

Great. I did that over a week ago, THE DAY IT CAME OUT.

Not only that, but Apple already knows I did it! I had to sign in to iTunes (with that email address) to upgrade to version 8. I had to sign in to iTunes (with that email address) to purchase the album my Genius playlist recommended.

Apple, you act like you don’t even know me! Sending an email to introduce me to a product you already know I have and have used, that’s like having a one-night-stand, passing that person on the street a week later and not even recognizing them! It hurts!

Why not email me about features with iTunes 8 I haven’t used yet? Why not suggest a billion more artists and playlists I might like based on the Genius data you’ve already collected from me? Why not just act like my interactions with you register somewhere (other than with your accounts receivable department).

In both cases, my boss would rake me over the coals if I so much as suggested ideas as asinine as the ones I encountered. I don’t even want to think about what would happen if those ideas actually made it out of my office to annoy and irritate our customers. (In actuality, my boss is a very nice person who’d diplomatically reject those dumbass ideas – while surely wondering what was wrong in my brain – and suggest better ways of doing things. But you get what I’m saying).

So Lululemon, Apple, sack up and pay attention! I expect better, a LOT better, from you both.

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6 thoughts on “Two Birds, One Stone

  1. bobvis

    I didn’t think the first thing about a $0.50 discount was such a bad thing until I read the alternative. You’re right. That’s much, much better.

    I’m signed up for the Apple e-mails too. I agree that it’s pretty haphazard.

  2. col

    I don’t think 50 cents is that big a deal. It’s better than some other places that give you a 3cent discount (thanks IGA). I think lululemon is banking on people using their bags for other purposes and getting exposure that way. it seems to be working as i’ve seen SO many people carrying it around.

  3. Laura

    Or there is the 0.03 cents that IGA gives for bringing in re-usable bags…and which some cashiers forget to give you anyways. There has to be a better way to get people to re-use bags like you said- give to a charity, offer them coupons, or enter them into a contest or something…

  4. peechie Post author

    Yah – I bring in the bags because I care about the environment. Fullstop. It’s not about the amount of money at all. Any company tying their bags to a tiny discount, instead of the health of the planet, is clearly not tuned in to their buyers’ motivations. And of course everyone who’s making a re-useable bag is banking on it being toted around on something other than shopping trips. Personally, if I need to drag around a bag o’ stuff, I do it in my Farmer’s Market bag, for just that reason. If I’m going to be a billboard, I may as well be one for something I care about.

  5. bobvis

    It occurs to me now that if you really want people to remember to bring their own bags, you should actually *charge* them $0.03 for forgetting to bring their own bags. I think that would psychologically be a better incentive to remember to bring your bag than either a discount.

    Of course, a company probably would think twice before implementing this policy because it could tick off consumers. However, it might actually serve as a better motivator.

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