Arment Dietrich

Two Dollar Waffle Irons, Boycotts, and Big Marketing Ideas

By: Arment Dietrich | November 30, 2011 | 

Today’s guest is post is written by Lisa Gerber.

Between Occupy Wall Street and Black Friday madness, I’m not sure if I should be knitting handmade items for my loved ones or donning my riot gear and bracing the furious frenzy for a $2 waffle iron.

This stuff is like a train wreck to me. I watch it through squinty eyes wondering about the average IQ of the general population.

There were, however, some glimmers of good news over the weekend. There actually are retailers who do not resort to family-separating and violence-inducing strategies for an increase in sales.

This, I like to watch. We’re all students of good marketing strategy and there is plenty to study in the highly competitive sector of holiday retail.

According to the National Retail Federation, holiday sales can account for 25 to 40 percent of annual sales for many retailers.

It’s do or die.

For Spin Sucks Pro, and for our Arment Dietrich clients, we get a lot of our big ideas outside of the industry.

Sure, it’s important to keep an eye on the competition and to see what everyone else is doing, but the most creative ideas come from completely different sectors.

Three Great Marketing Ideas

Rue La La.

Hello, my name is Lisa Gerber, and I’ve been shopping with Rue La La for one year now. And I can’t stop. I am addicted to this daily designer deals site. I have a problem. Daily emails direct users to their website or mobile app with stunning photography  of great products at great prices.

Rue La La builds loyalty in several ways. First, you pay shipping once per month. Buy something, and get 30 days of free shipping. My email shows me how many more days of free shipping I have. It makes me eager to use that perk.

The “still want it?” feature is a way to get waitlisted for an out-of-stock item. If the item gets returned they automatically send it to you, and charge your card.

That’s not all. Their email communications are a sight to behold (or I’m just a sucker for awesome communications). UPS delivered my package and two seconds later, I got an email from Rue La La telling me the package was delivered and that half the fun is opening the box.

Rue La La takes building loyalty one step further. They’ve created an addiction. If it could be bottled, they could sell it.

How can we create an obsession for our product or service?

Small Business Saturday.

Clearly there were issues in the execution of Small Business Saturday, but let’s talk about the strategy.

American Express’ customers are small businesses. AmEx wants you to understand the importance of small business and the role it plays in the economy. So they offers shoppers a $25 credit when they shop at participating independent merchants using their AmEx card.

A site was developed to provide tools for merchants to use social media and get the word out.

The strategy is to shine the spotlight on their customer; using their vast network to drive business to them.

President Obama, the Small Business Administration, and political candidates all got in on the action with photo opps.

How can you build a strategy around a message, not your brand? How can you make it about your customers?


Patagonia tells you not to buy.

In an email on Cyber Monday, and a full-page ad in the New York Times, Patagonia advocates moderation in consumption by advising you NOT to buy the jacket pictured.

Few brands could actually pull this off without coming across as disingenuous. In fact, some still accuse them of exactly that.

Of course, they don’t actually think you won’t buy. But they are getting a lot of attention by spreading an excellent message about thinking twice before you consume.

As someone who cringes at all of the waste the holidays create, I say high five, Patagonia!

Here is the thing. It’s a bold move and can only be executed by a company that isn’t directly tracking ROI on every marketing dollar spent. It would be fairly hypocritical of them to be tracking sales from a full-page ad in New York Times with the headline Don’t Buy This Jacket.

Realistically, this isn’t a strategy that is going to work for everyone, certainly, but is there a message, or a cause, that is bigger than your brand on which you can hang your hat?

It’s a lot easier said than done, but it’s something to think about.

What great ideas have you found in the holiday retail madness?

  • I love the idea you suggest about looking at other sectors for ideas. It’s amazing how seemingly unrelated ideas can spark a creative idea or a new way of expressing a concept. Sometimes I find if I spend too much time reading topics on a specific subject from a specific industry, I can feel my vocabulary and idea pool shrinking. I need a daily dose of (seemingly) unrelated ideas to keep my thinking fresh.

    Thanks for sharing and I’ll have to check out Rue La La!

    • @Collectual Oh my gosh, I’m beginning to think I should have put my referral code on the Rue La La link! I get cash back!!! LOL.

      We use fashion and home furnishings for a lot of our inspiration for Spin Sucks Pro. It’s a good model because so many people love that kind of stuff. What drives me nuts is when people say, “that doesn’t apply to us, we’re B2B or we’re B2C” or whatever. You have to do the work, and connect the dots, but it CAN apply.

  • The ‘Don’t buy this Jacket’ campaign is an excellent idea. Maybe we can put ‘Don’t read this blog’ in our headers as well 🙂

    • @Raj-PB ha! You try it first and report back.

  • The only great idea I have is to stay the heck away. I loathe shopping…………marketers hate me because I’m a lump of coal when it comes to shopping unless it’s something fun and it’s for me. And I don’t have any money because I have to support my kids and the wife does all the shopping for them (I want to be my kids when I grow up BTW……) so I really don’t need to pay attention to anything which I’m pretty good at doing anyway.

    This was good information and I apologize for not having anything relevant or semi-intelligent to add but it all sounded good, so I’m sure it must be so, right?

  • I love the whole idea of Small Business Saturday for a lot of reasons, but mostly because I think small business is the future of our economy, and most of my clients are small businesses. I even got a free $25 AmEx small business Saturday gift card from Klout. Unfortunately, when we tried to use it, none of the stores said it would work for them. So I’m still trying to figure that one out!

    • @KenMueller yes, I heard there were many issues with the execution which is why I mentioned that. But the concept is awesome.

      • @Lisa Gerber I love it as well, particularly because I live a community for which it is perfect. I try to shop local and small as much as possible.

    • @KenMueller Uh oh, haven’t tried using my card yet. Hope it works- that is dinner money.

  • Charlotte74

    Holiday sales can account for 25-40% of yearly sales. Wow. It is do or die.

    • @Charlotte74 right? Pretty significant! It’s a tough industry.

  • katskrieger

    I looooved the Patagonia idea. Went nuts over it when I read about it and posted about it. I am so passionate about CSR and this is such a great way to do it with loyalty and actual product quality (which is disappointingly lacking all too often these days). I guess you can call them out for being disingenuous, but I’m not going to criticize them for it. I give them extra points for having the guts to do it. Unilever’s Keith Weed came out saying CSR needs to be a part of every department – here’s a perfect example.

    • @katskrieger You know, any other brand, and I’d totally be skeptical, but not Patagonia, and CEO Yvon Chouinard (sp?) . They are completely founded on CSR. They breathe it.

  • This is a great post Lisa. Christmas actually disgusts me since the nation is such a ‘pious’ country. The rampant consumerism is everything Jesus was against and stands for, And worse the Corporate world is based on greed not good will. So trust me Walmart LOVED that someone pepper sprayed shoppers to get an XBox. Free buzz right?

    I think we as a people do not reward companies and businesses for doing the right thing or at least being more sincere. The bank cards are under attack and there could be great new options soon like Dowalla which I just signed up for. So Amex is smart with their play that also helps their core customer base attract their own customers. I have to check out Rue La La your write up shows they are doing EVERYTHING right. Including mobile sydcon_mktg would be impressed.

    Patagonia took a tact similar to Nordstroms. Tues or Wed after Halloween jmitchem was pining how ridiculous that all the Xmas stuff was out already. I was in Macys and asked someone on Nov 1st if they had people all night working on the conversion. The guy said ‘No we have had the Xmas decor up since Oct 15th’. Nordstroms took out ads stating ‘We feel we should focus on one holiday at a time and will not start Xmas until after thanksgiving’

    Guess what all these brands have in common? Best in class.

    • @HowieSPMsydcon_mktgjmitchem LOVED the Nordstrom approach to holiday decor!! I posted a photo on FB of Bloomingdales in Chicago all decked out in mid October too. There’s a fine line – I’m not anti-corporation, after all, they do provide a ton of jobs, but holy cow, pretty soon we’ll be celebrating the holidays year-round. I mean, why take it down and put it back up? I left the stockings up in my house all year, and how excited am I that I didn’t have to hang them this year? HUH????

  • fergusonsarah

    Good point you have here LIza, it’s more easier said than done, but it’s something to think about.

  • ExtremelyAvg

    I hadn’t seen the ad to NOT buy the jacket, but I’ll remember it. I am a big fan of clever and I agree that this may be the year to be a bit thrifty. When the day comes that I’m less concerned about the economy and my own savings, I’ll remember their sound advice.

    Really good post. I’m not sure I’ve heard of Rue La La, but I bet I can find out more by Googling it. So I think I will. 🙂

  • LauLau81

    This is an excellent idea! As we are all aware Christmas season sales are everywhere, and thinking twice about purchasing something is really an important thing to remember.