THE ECONOMY MAY BE IN THE CRAPPER but many brands have learned that by being nice they can actually come out smelling pretty darn good. Whether that entails a free breakfast or a cab ride free resume printing or a PC tune-up marketers are betting that a little kindness can go a long way with cash-strapped consumers.
Last winter State Farm coddled weary shoppers who braved the Black Friday crowds with free coffee water and even some $25 and $50 gift cards via roaming brand ambassadors in 12 malls (USMP Dallas handled). HBO brand ambassadors outside the HBO Store Radio City Music Hall and Bryant Park in New York City spontaneously hugged unsuspecting passersby over the 10 days leading up to Christmas (Grand Central Marketing New York City handled). And thousands of lucky commuters in Boston got free rides on the metro system compliments of Dunkin’ Donuts (On The Mark Promotions Boston handled).
But unlike those do-gooders who guide old ladies across busy streets or pack their groceries into their cars the marketers behind these seemingly random acts of kindness were not motivated solely by the goodness of their hearts. State Farm offered that free cup of joe to generate leads among female shoppers a huge priority for the company. HBO wanted to drive traffic into the store to sell t-shirts. And Dunkin’ was seeking a closer connection with the lunch pail crowd that frequents its stores.
So how to balance doing good for the consumer with what’s good for the bottom line? “With Wall Street crumbling Main Street welcomes every act of kindness regardless of the source ” says Drew Neisser ceo of New York City-based Renegade which recently activated good deeds on behalf of HSBC Bank Ubisoft and Nautica. “But for random acts to work they need to be consistently delivered and quickly become the opposite of random. The key here is to not worry about the random and focus on the kindness.”
And of course focus on what you can expect in return. Here five programs and the payoffs they received for playing nice.
ROI. Denny’s offer of a free Grand Slam breakfast of pancakes eggs bacon and sausage (two of each—yum!) from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesday Feb. 3 drew two million people into its 1 600 restaurants in North America and Puerto Rico. Consumers who bit on the free offer also received a coupon booklet good for additional free items.
But the chain estimates the $5 million cost of the promo yielded much more than goodwill. The free grub netted nearly 47 million hits to its website and $50 million in media value. “We have had continuous positive sales and traffic since the event ” says Mark Chmiel evp/chief marketing and innovation officer at Denny’s. “We’re seeing a residual effect. Most of the people who contacted us said they love this so much they’ll be coming back more often and they are.”
Awareness. Staples from March 2 to April 4 performed free PC tune-ups at its 1 500 stores. Customers received a full system analysis report a list of services performed and suggestions for further improvements to their PC’s performance. For its part the office products retailer is looking to raise awareness for its technology services. “This tune-up helps customers during these challenging times and introduces them to the quality of work available at all of our stores from our EasyTech associates ” says Jill Molinari director of product marketing at Staples. “They know we provide everyday values on core office supplies such as ink and paper but they are not as familiar with our breadth of tech offerings.”
Engagement. On New Year’s Eve 3 Musketeers engaged millions of consumers as presenting sponsor of the Confetti Wishing Wall at the Times Square Information Center. Besides sampling its new low-fat 3 Musketeers Mint flavor to the crowds in New York City’s Times Square (ever appropriate for all those New Year’s resolutions to lose weight) starting on Dec. 16 consumers wrote their hopes dreams and resolutions on multicolored confetti that was hung on the wall and later mixed with the ton of confetti that dropped on the crowd at midnight. “Our business is to create small moments of joy with our products ” says Ryan Bowling a Mars Inc. spokesperson which owns the brand. “Sometimes a small joy can make a big difference” (Catapult Marketing Westport CT handled).
Employee Pride. FedEx Office Print and Ship Centers which on March 10 provided free resume printing for job seekers is seeing a halo effect among its own employees. “They are really rallying around this ” says Jenny Robertson manager of p.r. at FedEx Office who handled the program. “Our people are really getting excited to help their customers who they see going through hard times.” The fact that these people will eventually land jobs (hopefully) and remember FedEx’s largesse doesn’t hurt either.
Loyalty. Every weekday since 2004 a vintage Checker Cab decked out in HSBC branding provides free rides to bank patrons across Manhattan. Johnnie the cab driver approaches customers as they leave the bank and offers them a lift. “Johnnie is well aware of our latest special offers ” says Neil Brazil vp of public affairs at HSBC. “He’ll give them information during the course of the journey. He is the ultimate brand ambassador a novel and interesting way of highlighting the brand and the business offerings that we have and letting our customers know we’re a little bit different.”