The one thing marketers forget to tell clients, but shouldn’t

People in line at Marble Slab Creamery for free ice cream
People take advantage of free food days, but there’s a reason major chains still employ this marketing tactic: Even with some people taking advantage of the promotion, the chain still comes out ahead in terms of profits and branding. Photo from Flickr Creative Commons: Walter Lim.



I once had this ice cream store as a client. We did a promotion that, for one day, we gave away free ice cream to everyone who showed up. That year, the client’s sales increased 84%! But the owner never let me do the promotion again because he saw a couple of people take advantage of the promotion and get in line more than once. I ended up losing him as a client.


The above story was told to me by a very successful marketer about one of his early experiences being a marketing consultant. He was mostly venting, but his story has reminded me over and over about the one thing  marketers forget to clients, but shouldn’t. That is: There will be abuse, but the campaign can still be successful with abuse.

Rationally,we all understand this. We understand that there are some people in the world who will take advantage whenever something is offered for free or whenever there is any other promotion offered. But when they actually see it happening or hear a story of an incident of abuse, the emotional part us kicks in and we have a difficult time tolerating abuse and processing that it’s rarely wide-spread.

Yes, in a perfect world, it wouldn’t happen. But is does AND a campaign can still be successful with abuse. Think of the ice cream store story above again; those people getting in line twice  cost the owner additional money, but his sales went up 84% for the whole year. I doubt the total cost of the abuse came anywhere near to the amount he gain in those additional sales throughout the year.

We need to make a point to talk to clients about this upfront and come to an understanding that the abuse will happen, but the benefits typically significantly outweigh the costs.

One thought on “The one thing marketers forget to tell clients, but shouldn’t”

  1. Chick Fill A is a good example, they just smile and give the promo item away even when they know someone is abusing. They know at the core that they will succeed and forget about the bad apples.

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