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Marketing Ploys
1/5/2012 9:32:00 PM
I read a book a few years back called "Mind Manipulation Ancient and Modern Ninja Techniques". The section of the book that really stayed with me was recognizing common ploys to control your enemy. Ploys such as Anger, Greed, Fear, Sympathy and Lust were outlined. While I was teaching graphic design, I tried to impart these ploys in advertising and marketing, to my students so they would be able to become better communicators, analyzers and ninjas!

Today I discovered a marketing ploy so cunning that I have to share.

Introducing the Starbucks Gold Card

How do you as a food and beverage establishment find out who your customer is? I mean do you really need to know who's buying a latte from you to continue selling them coffee? Good marketers know that it's a lot easier to reach your customers when you know who they are, and it's a lot less expensive to market to them when you don' t have to use traditional advertising to reach them.

How do you make customers give you all of their sweet little details so you can continue to market to them and make them feel elite at the same time? You create a rewards program so cunning and perfect I could see the "value" and merit instantly. In fact, it's marketing genius.

Here's how it works. You buy a gift card in store. You charge it up with the amount you want. You register online, essentially give them all your deets. Then you behave like a good little consumer and charge it not once but a number of times. They will eventually reward you with another piece of plastic to replace your common card. Only this plastic is gold Oooohhh Aaahhhhh!, and it HAS YOUR NAME ON IT.

Then instead of giving your customer every 10th coffee free, I mean coffee cards haven't been invented yesterday, they give you every 15th free. I quickly did the math. I spend about $4.50 for a grande latte x 14 = 63 dollars, before you get a $4.50 latte "on the house". That works out to 7% savings. That's even under the 10% norm for similar membership based loyalty programs.

How can they get away with this and all of your consumer details too? They wrap it in a pretty bow, and make you feel better than the average customer. When I waited tables years ago, a gold card meant you qualified with a high salary. Not everyone had one. Today they are common. Banks use the same ploy to try and get you to pay 19.9% interest - since the color of the card is gold, so you must have elevated social status. Hogwash!!!

Here's the hook. In reality you likely over time will buy 14 lattes, so how valuable is your private details to you anymore? Is it worth revealing all to get a discount and a few extra pumps of syrup on the house?

I think things are moving in the direction where our personal information will become currency to barter with. Perhaps in time it's a simple chip in our forehead, or the mobile in our pocket that will be scanned as you enter the door of the store. And now to discuss an online store that is doing just that.

Step right up and join Groupon!

What's that you say? Groupon. In case you haven't joined, be prepared to give them your email address immediately upon browsing their website. That's right they've locked access down to segment their customers by location, and close the sale with a quick email signup. I signed up using shutup@hotmail.com to bypass their modal window. It let me in even though I made the email up on the spot. I wasn't there to join I was there to snoop. I was impressed by their application though as a few minutes went by and it alerted me with a message in red at the top of the page that my email wasn't valid. Tee hee.

Their tactic is a lot less pretty than the Starbucks loyalty program, but the end result is the same. You get to save money by becoming a member. Which makes me question their actual market penetration when they are skewing their membership numbers in that manner. Even to see a press release, or contact them, etc requires getting by that sign up barrier.

Someone finally had the balls to turn every single website visitor into a member whether they want to join or not. I found it highly offensive today but again this is where things are heading, and consumers are becoming less and less restricted in giving out their details in exchange for something, whether it be access, savings, or elite status.

The world is changing so rapidly. A few years ago brands were big on contests as it was a way to create a huge warm lead customer database to continue to market to. Loyalty programs soon followed, but the landscape is changing again to better marry technology at the point of sale. Big brands lead the way and soon smaller companies will follow along in effort to stay in business and adapt.

An old Chinese adage comes to mind: "Under fragrant bait there is certain to be found a hooked fish."
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