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Shooting yourself in the foot…

Or how to turn a brand building exercise into a PR mess

Earlier today I went to a certain large bookshop which sounds like it could be on the frontier between two countries… Let me explain, though, that there’s nothing special about that in itself – I spend large amounts of time and money in that particular chain of bookstores.

Anyway, here in the UK they’re running a loyalty card scheme. You get a stamp for every £15 you spend, and once you have 6 stamps you get £10 off your next purchase – I worked out that’s about 10% discount. So far so run of the mill. It’s still not as much as I could save by going to Amazon, but I love the immediacy of walking into a store and walking out with my book.

So today I bought £40 worth of books and redeemed a full stamp-card in part payment.

Problem number 1: I hadn’t told the cashier that I wanted to use a stamp-card before she rang the sale through. Now, in any other store that doesn’t seem to matter much – they ring your voucher or coupon or whatever through and the balance goes down as appropriate. Not so here. The cashier had to cancel the whole transaction and start again. Since I was eager to get on the road for a 200 mile drive that wasn’t too impressive, but then things got worse.

Problem number 2: as she handed me my books I asked the cashier for a new card with 2 stamps – for the extra £30 I’d spent on top of the value of the old card. ‘Oh no,’ she said ‘we don’t give new cards if you’re redeeming one.’ Now, if I’d been told that at the start I’d have split my purchases, used the card against one, and got a new card for the other. As it was I was only missing out on two stamps, but imagine if I’d just bought £400 of books instead of £40. I felt like queueing up at the next till and returning the whole lot. Instead I’ll use my blog to rail against the stupidity of the scheme.

More importantly though, the store has lost my custom for a while. The incident lost it a lot of goodwil, and with no partially completed card to lure me back I think I’ll go and pay full price for my books somewhere else. Heck, I may even get them from Amazon!

Now, how does this apply to personal branding? All branding is promotion, and in a rare show of symmetry, all promotion is an act of brand creation (hmm, does that make sense? I’ll have to come back to that in a later blog). Many independent professionals use promotions of one sort or another to build their brand – twofers, discounts, rewards for referrals, the list goes on. If you are one of them then ask yourself a few questions:

  1. are the rules of the promotion clear and well understood by your clients?
  2. are the rules sensible?
  3. is it easy for your clients to call on you to honour the promotion? In other words, is the experience of claiming on the promotion enjoyable? Or is it a chore?

If your answer to any of these questions is no then rethink the details of the scheme until it is clear, sensible and simple.

Rant over 🙂

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