DIY toy taxidermy shop Build-A-Bear had decreed that Thursday, July 12, was Pay Your Age Day in shops across the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. The self-explanatory event lets bear lovers make a furry friend, stuff it with love, and pay a dollar amount that matched their current age—a payment model that vastly favored spoiled 1-year-old knee-biters over 50-year-olds who just needed something to love.
What could go wrong‽
The 21 year old company was likely planning on leveraging nostalgia from grandparents and parents while building loyalty with a new generation of toy-lovers. Now was an especially great time for this campaign as Toys”R”Us has shut down hundreds of stores worldwide and there’s marketshare on the table to capture – especially for a focused, experiential brand like Build-A-Bear.
It was a good plan and a great marketing idea, save for one tiny little problem—the fans loved it too much. In fact, they loved it so much that they started lining up before Build-A-Bear Workshops opened in the U.S. The long lines made the company nervous about crowds and maybe bear riots, so they sent out a statement on social media saying it would limit the number of people who could take advantage of the deal due to safety concerns.
Customers were pissed – especially those who lined up around the block. Plus no one wants to hear you make excuses, blaming “safety concerns” and “local authorities.”
Sadly, all Build-A-Bear had to do was test this genius, goodwill generating campaign at a single store and then in increasingly larger markets to work out the kinks. To make matters worse, Build-A-Bear didn’t jump on the bad press and make anything of it.
Takeaway: Launch slowly – even if you have a great idea – so that any mistakes in your plan or missed assumptions don’t spiral out of control.
The Boring Company Not-A-Flamethrower was casually announced by Elon Musk in this Dec 10, 2017 tweet.
The remaining promotional hats sold out quickly.
Seven weeks later:
100 hours later:
The Boring Company – Musk’s underground drilling company – sold 20,000 Flamethrowers in about 100 hours. That’s $10 million in top line revenue and millions more in free press and captured mind space.
Opps.. It’s not called a Flamethrower. It’s a “Not A Flamethrower” – a brilliant regulatory decision, drawing even more attention (and desire) to Musk’s scheme:
Musk drew some heat for this move – many criticizing him for making a flamethrower for his “rich friends” instead of giving a bunch of money to charity or ending world hunger.
What the non-strategic thinker missed was that Elon wasn’t making a toy for his friends. They have plenty of toys. This was a brilliant marketing stunt.
Of course it’s not just a stunt. The flamethrowers were real. And so is the deal the company just signed with the city of Chicago. The Boring Company will build an 18 mile high-speed (150mph) skate-based tunnel transit system between O’Hare International Airport and downtown Chicago.
Bottom Line: If Musk can get people excited about city planning and tunneling, you can get people excited about what you’re doing.
Entertaining review of the Not-A-Flamethrower pickup day in LA.
It’s one thing to be obsessed with our looks, our beauty…
As the demands of beauty rise, not only do we have to do more all the time, but their nature also changes. Beauty becomes more important. It has begun to function as an ethical ideal. Beauty is often what we — rightly or wrongly — value most. It is what we think about, talk about and what we spend our time and hard-earned cash on. If we are good at beauty, we feel we are good, virtuous; if we are bad, we feel we are no good, almost no matter what else we do. We judge others too on how they look. We make assumptions about what people are like and how successful they are. We read character traits directly from looks, and we start doing this as young as four years old.
…but it’s another thing to confuse beauty practices for health practices.
Consumers are allowing themselves to be manipulated by obvious marketing tactics and the beauty industry is capitalizing on the opportunity. These marketing and advertising tactics remind me of the diamond industry, which I’ve written extensively about.
Let’s take hair for instance. “Shaving, plucking, waxing and lasering” have become so normalized that hair removal is no longer a “beauty practice” but has been “redefined as a hygiene practice, as part of so-called “routine” maintenance.” And these redefined social norms aren’t just for celebrities – they’re for everyone.
Hair removal becomes something we have to do, a requirement. It is not an option to refuse — like teeth-cleaning, but without any of the health benefits. Beauty practices are indulgent and optional; hygiene practices are necessary and required. You don’t have to do a beauty practice; you do have to do something that is required to meet minimum standards, just to be normal. Once the shift to routine is complete, the fact that this is a demanding beauty practice becomes invisible.
The Beauty Market
The Economist reported in 2003 (Real Men Get Waxed) that the US male grooming market was $8 billion. 15 years later, that number has nearly tripled and is on pace to grow by 12% annually.
Bottom Line: Societal norms and their changes drive huge shifts in spending – especially when there’s strong emotional connection or potential for embarrassment. What shifting & emotionally-charged norms can you capitalize on?