How to Ruin a Retail Promotion

Planning retail promotions has taught me that the number one reason promotions fail isn’t because the campaign doesn’t resonate with customers or even because of poor planning. The best way to ruin a promotion is to fail to execute it at the point-of-sale. Last weekend I took Yakko and Wakko to the 3-D showing of Star Wars: Episode I. AMC Theatres was running a promotion during the opening weekend where everyone who attended a showing of the movie would receive a free Hasbro Star Wars Fighter Pod toy. AMC’s social media team did a very good job with promoting the campaign. I saw announcements on Facebook and Twitter encouraging customers to attend opening weekend to receive the toy. They even had some pretty good creative to support the campaign.

However, all of the money and resources that was spent on promotion was completely wasted as soon as we stepped into the theater. There was no signage about the promotion visible as we walked in. For the record, there actually may have been signage, but since I was trying to keep track of Yakko and Wakko we didn’t notice any. The person taking tickets informed us that the 3-D glasses would be at the door to the theater. When I asked about the toy, she didn’t know anything about it. She directed us to the Guest Services counter where we got to stand in line behind a customer who couldn’t print the tickets they ordered online at the kiosk. If you’re curious, they were told it was because they used PayPal. The solution Guest Services gave them for the future was to visit the Ticket Booth (doesn’t that defeat the purpose of ordering online?). However, we’ll talk about online ordering issues another time.

The Guest Services person then assisted us by checking our tickets and scribbling on the back of them…then reached under the counter and gave us the toys. The family behind us in line had apparently heard me ask about Star Wars toys because they also wanted some, but they were turned away because they didn’t have tickets to see Star Wars. Other than us and the other family, I didn’t see anyone else inquire about the free toys. I glanced around the theater before the movie started and only saw a small handful of people with the toys. I did, however see several kids with lightsabers and other Star Wars toys they had brought with them. That’s a strong sign Hasbro was targeting the right customers. If I’m a representative from Hasbro, I would be extremely upset with AMC Theatres. Hasbro was trying to capitalize on the re-release of an epic franchise and their promotion is sitting out-of-sight behind the counter. I know my kids have both asked repeatedly when they can go to the store to purchase additional fighter pods. It’s safe to say that was the point of the campaign – they want to sell more toys. Holding them behind the counter is a complete failure of the campaign.

I’m not very familiar with the take rate for toy marketing campaigns but for the sake of argument, say Hasbro expected 10% of customers who received the toy would go to a store and buy more. To keep the math simple, let’s say AMC sold 500,000 tickets to Star Wars during the promotion (Star Wars grossed $23 million at the box office opening weekend). Even if 85% of customers were given the free toy offer (which I think is being generous) that still leaves 75,000 people who didn’t receive/know about the new Hasbro fighter pods. If each customer spends just $25 on new toys, that’s a potential $187,500 in sales that was left on the table because the retail location failed to execute the campaign.

There are also repercussions beyond the financial impacts for Hasbro. Failure to execute at the store level also impacts customer loyalty and retention. One of the reasons we went to the movie during opening weekend was because of the toys. I’ll admit I’m thrifty (my wife would use cheapskate) when it comes to movies. If there’s a choice, I’ll always take the least expensive option. I’ll watch the cheaper 2-D version of a movie if it’s available. Since Star Wars was only in 3-D, getting a toy as a bonus was a good incentive to go opening weekend. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say there are people who knew about the promotion that either didn’t ask where to find the toys or didn’t want to wait in a line at Guest Services. How do you think they feel about AMC right now?

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