“You Can Fool All Of The People Some Of The Time”–Value vs. Tricks

Marketeurs are a wily bunch. We watch TED talks, attend seminars, read books about how to boost consumer engagement. Most of this stuff is crammed with ways to dangle that proverbial carrot in front of the nose of the consumer or client. Many of the strategies proposed extend into a sort of “dark arts” territory of marketing magic, whereby consumers fall right into a carefully constructed psychological trap.

Take the McDonalds Monopoly game, for example. By building a gamification strategy, McDonalds lured consumers back with the promise of more game pieces and the potential for scoring big prizes. The game itself had very little to do with the food, but people “ate it up” and sales rose (5.5% in 2011). Gamification does work to boost sales, but only for a limited time. Once the offer ends, people go back to their regularly scheduled programs, waiting for the next big thing.

Now, take Starbucks, the Seattle-born coffee chain that made shelling out $4.00 for a cuppa joe an everyday occurrence. Starbucks has no games, no particular gimmicks, it simply designs its menu based on consumer demand. In 2012, Starbucks hit a record second quarter. What the heck? They expanded into Tazo-branded K-cups, opened their first store in Norway, and continued to deliver a particular standard of value to consumers. They continue to grow and to stay competitive in the market, offering convenience (isn’t there a Starbucks on every corner now?), quality, and consumer satisfaction.

While “tricks” strategies and “value” strategies are not always mutually exclusive, when a company is deciding on its next quarter’s plan, it has to look at the broader scope. Are sales really low right now? Maybe a “trick” strategy is more important this quarter, but if the value is not there next quarter, the carriage turns back into a pumpkin, and all of the hard work you put in last quarter can just go, “poof!”

The key to a good value strategy is excellent research. Hire someone who is good at getting to know your consumer base, who knows how to create and execute effective surveys, is involved in target communities, and who does a heck of a lot of reading.  Understand your consumers and the rest is as easy as collecting $200 when you pass “Go!”.

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