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3 Tips To Be A More Conscientious Marketer

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Are you a conscientious marketer? I don't mean, are you "green" or eco-friendly ... although that's part of it. I mean, when you build your marketing programs and consumer promotions, do you pay as much attention to customer needs as you do meeting sales marketing goals?

As marketers, our primary goal is to get results ... reach the redemption goal ... exceed sign-up goals.

But if we pay attention to customer needs and marketing, sales, and operational needs, then our promotions/programs will be more meaningful, memorable, and more successful.

There are three "Does It" questions you could ask to check your diligence. Your program: Does it...

  1. Add true value for your customer?

  2. Offer relevance?

  3. Provide true value and relevance in a way that is free of hoops for the customer?

The movie theater offers free refills of the giant-sized bucket of popcorn. They know few people can stomach more than one jumbo bucket. They offer a perception of value, not true value. What they've accomplished is increasing the average ticket for the concession stand. Yes, they met their marketing objective, but they didn't truly offer something for the customer.

To be conscientious, offers should provide something customers will truly benefit from.

Simply because your new product is important to your company, doesn't automatically make it important for your customer. You have to offer something that adds meaning, is important, and applicable.

Great, low price offers,  but only for new customers, not existing loyal ones. Google's "sponsored" links are supposed to be relevant, matching an advertiser with the search terms.

To be conscientious, be sure you're giving customers a good reason to care.

Free of Hoops is similar to true value. However, hoop jumping happens when we force customers to perform random tasks to achieve the benefit. If they want it bad enough, we can make 'em walk on coals to get the $25 discount offer. Collect Monopoly game pieces at McDonald's, and maybe you'll win a new car ... or a least a Big Mac.

We make customer jump hoops with rebates requiring original sales receipt, original UPC code, and rebate forms with teeny tiny boxes to print clearly, and legibly.

A "free offer" that requires a credit card sign-up and automatically bills monthly if not canceled is hoop jumping. You're counting on people forgetting to quit and you getting your money.

We marketers act like we are offering great value. However, only when the customer does the song and dance precisely as we demand can they enjoy the promoted benefit. These are "gifts" with strings attached. We hate these tactics as consumers, why do we marketers create them for our customers?

To be conscientious, make it as easy as possible.

Two Examples

I'm going to pick on my marketing alma mater Starbucks ... Twice last week Starbucks has put offers in front of me that haven't offered true value, relevance, or been free of hoops.
Example No. 1:  Duetto Credit Card

In 2003, Starbucks launched the "Duetto" credit card. Whenever you use the card, you receive reward dollars to spend at Starbucks. The credit card serves as a Starbucks Card. (A dual card, thus the name "duetto").

After seven years, the card is being cancelled.

I received the official mail this week about the cancellation of the program. As a "thank you" for being a loyal customer they sent a booklet of six free drink coupons. Nice!

However, when flipping through the book, I noticed the coupons are valid one per month: April 2010, May 2010, June 2010, and so on.

My excitement turned disappointment. Why add strings? Why make me come back over six months to accept the "thank you" gift?

I know why. They want to me return month after month, more frequently, and develop a habit of coming more often.

What I would have done differently?
Put an expiration date of, say, a year on the coupons, not month by month. Don't give me a gift with strings attached. While I appreciate the coupon is good any size drink, this offer isn't free of hoops.
Example No. 2: The Starbucks, HP Relationship, And You!

I saw the below brochure in the rack on the condiment bar at Starbucks last weekend. HP and Starbucks?

One Great Relationship Means Many Great Savings For You

It continues, "Proud Partners In Technology: And through this great relationship, Starbucks fans like you get access to exclusive HP offers and deals ..."

Huh? That sounds like a commercial to me. In fact it is spam. I've just been spammed at the condiment bar.

If you go to the site, they've extended their corporate "employee purchase program" to every/anyone.

It appears that HP and Starbucks have some sort of relationship, and that relationship can get me "Joe Customer" special deals and offers.

Huh? Why am I being pitched computer deals from my coffee shop?

As a former Starbucks partner (employee), I know HP is the brand computer that Starbucks uses in the corporate offices. Furthermore, HP hardware powers the "back of house" of Starbucks cafes. (The same way T-Mobile provides the connectivity between stores and HQ in Seattle to transmit sales figures and orders).

Knowing how these things work,  I used to get pitched all the time by companies wanting to get their product in front of Starbucks customers. In exchange for a sweet deal Starbucks got on the back-of-house equipment, the "partner in technology" HP was offered in-store visibility and access to the Starbucks customer base. (The joke is on HP, as those brochures don't drive anything except clutter on the condiment bars).

This program makes absolutely no sense. This is nothing more than HP execs feeling good seeing their logo in Starbucks.

As a customer this program is irrelevant and confusing. Offering discounts on computer equipment? C'mon, Starbucks?! The result of someone not having the guts to say, "No," to HP.

Sure, one could justify that this is relevant as "the typical Starbucks customer has a higher-income and is computer savvy." But, that would be a smokescreen to justify this program. (Trust me, the brochures are fairly worthless as an awareness tool).

This adds clutter and noise to the already cluttered and noisy Starbucks cafe ... and pimps out the customer to HP.

I trusted Starbucks more than that, to interrupt my in-store experience with a schlocky computer offer.

What I would have done differently?
It was a mistake for Starbucks to agree to allow a HP message to live in-store. This is not relevant to customers.

Being Conscientious

To create meaningful, memorable promotions and consumer programs, don't underestimate the importance of: 1.) adding value, 2.) being truly relevant, and 3.) free of hoops.

Other than the obvious, what are other important ways to be conscientious?

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Hi there!

I'm Paul Williams... guest writer on Daily Fix and founder of Idea Sandbox.

I'm a professional problem solver. Through brainstorm facilitation I help people create remarkable ideas to grow their business. As one client put it, “Idea Sandbox turns brains into idea machines.”

Prior to launching Idea Sandbox in 2005, I spent 15 years building marketing, branding, and customer-experience strategy for The Disney Company, the Aramark Corporation, and Starbucks Coffee Company.

I founded Idea Sandbox driven by my passion to help others create remarkable ideas. I blend the skills and lessons I have learned to build a sandbox---an idea sandbox.

You can reach me on Twitter via @IdeaSandbox.

Through Idea Sandbox, I have helped solve challenges, grow brands, think-up remarkable ideas, and create innovation for companies including: Starbucks Coffee Company, Starbucks Coffee International, Panera Bread Company, Seattle’s Best Coffee, Woodhouse Day Spas, The Microsoft Corporation, and Wells Fargo Mortgage.

I am a writer, speaker, columnist, and brainstormer living just outside Washington DC, in Alexandria, Virginia.

If you like what you've read here, you can find more of my thoughts at my Idea Sandbox blog.

I always welcome comments and reactions to what I've written. I'm on Twitter: @IdeaSandbox

Nice to meet you,


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  • by uberVU - social comments Fri Apr 2, 2010 via blog

    Social comments and analytics for this post... This post was mentioned on Twitter by raodyboy: 3 Tips for Being a More Conscientious Marketer

  • by Adam Schorr Fri Apr 2, 2010 via blog


    I think the consumer marketing industry over the past decades has fallen so deeply in love with its ability to manipulate consumers that it has forgotten about what ought to be its mission: delighting consumers.

    Check out my recent blog post on the topic:

  • by Ann Handley Sat Apr 3, 2010 via blog

    Great post, Paul. In fact, I think a lot of the same principles you speak of here (true value, relevance, free of hoops) applies to Content Marketing, as well. Companies who are publishing content as part of their social media or marketing strategy should follow the same 3-tip prescription you lay out here: Offer content that's truly valuable to a customer or prospect, talk about them (not you), and don't put up walls (registration pages, etc.) to make them access it or share it.

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