The Bribe or the Brand?

This holiday season, you’ll see more offers, promotions, teasers … well, more bribes to drive a sale than any other time of the year. With an expected holiday consumer spending more than $619 billion dollars, according to Internet Retailer, brands around the country are scrambling for their piece of the pie. Is the “bribe” necessarily a bad thing? Well, it can be. Consider the following:

1. Are you prospecting with a bribe? If so, have you considered how much you are spending to get a customer? And, what IS your return on investment? Many brands find that when a customer comes in with a deeply discounted offer, loyalty seldom follows. Or, if a customer does return, it’s only with another bribe. If this is the case, at what point are you realizing an acceptable profit threshold?

2. Do your offers ultimately erode your brand? Yes, this is a harsh accusation but, think about it. Your brand is the most valuable asset you own and your team spends countless assets hours building and protecting the perception of your brand. In a single moment, all might be lost in a rush to bag a sale. Great brands stand for something and own a voice; a method in which messages are presented in a memorable way. Do your offers and promotions speak in the same voice as your painstakingly crafted brand? Do your offers support your unique position in the marketplace? Hear me loud and clear: I am not contending that offers are always deleterious to the bottom line. I am asking you to consider the notion that a poorly crafted offer moves customers’ one degree further from the desired perception of your brand.

A brand that always seems to get this right is Duluth Trading Co. Just about every promotion presented to their customers is steeped in their fun and often irreverent voice. Customers expect this brand to talk to them in a witty voice with a hint of naughty. Note how their offer “shoots the moon” with their “plumbers butt” Longtail Tshirt. This is completely consistent with the voice of their brand, not to mention the attention-grabbing call-to-action!


3. Do you really need a bribe? Great marketers understand that offers are created to change behavior; reactivating lapsed customers or increasing the average order. This is not a bad idea. A bad idea is when you give away margin to customers that didn’t need the bribe. For many brands, being top of mind is all a customer needs. With this busy season among us, being proactive is critical. You must “be there” when customers are ready to make a purchase decision and a carefully crafted communication plan will maximize exposure based on past purchasing behavior. If customers love what you offer and what you stand for, a bribe is never necessary. What is necessary is an understanding of what matters to your customer. In a recent email, Fab promised me “gift solutions for every budget.” What a great offer! Yes, to me this is an offer, and no discount was necessary.


So, what will your brand be remembered for this holiday season? Will you maintain the integrity of your brand’s perception? The three concepts I’ve mentioned require careful planning and communication among your marketing and creative teams, but if loyalty is your ultimate goal, it is well worth the effort.

Posted by Lois Brayfield, CEO; J.Schmid & Assoc, Inc.

Dean of Creative; Catalog University