Knowledge Bank Blog, Pricing & Promotions

Comic Relief & The Rules of the Game

What can Comic Relief 2015 tell us about added value promotions?

Last week we spoke about Limited Editions and how they can deliver something new and different without adding to the permanent SKU count. This week we turn our attention to how you do new and different promotional activity without having to offer a big price discount.

Today is Comic Relief day in the UK. Comic Relief has now been going strong for 27 years and last time out raised a record £75m for fantastic causes. Walk into any Sainsbury’s store in the last couple of weeks and you can’t fail to have been hit by all the Comic Relief activity.

In an industry where the trend has been to run more promotions, with deeper discounts, it is refreshing to see an activity, such as Comic Relief that is different. Where the depth of discount is not king. And where shoppers are being offered different incentives to participate.

So, what can we learn from Comic Relief and how could we apply this to promotional activities?

Firstly, Refresh, don’t always reinvent. The Red Nose theme has been around since Comic Relief launched and is proven. The theme this year hasn’t changed, however, the execution has. This year there are 9 collectible red noses, all based on different characters. In previous years, you bought 1 nose and you were done. Now you buy 1 and you have 8 more to collect. This incentivises the shopper to buy more, donate more and probably visit Sainsbury’s more. It’s win : win : win.

Secondly, create lock in. This year the red noses are in sealed packs. You don’t know which of the 9 noses is inside. Not knowing what is inside the pack is a big part of the appeal. As anyone who used to collect Panini football stickers or Garbage Pail kids will definitely remember! Admittedly, it can lead to one or two problems if you don’t get ‘Snout Dracula’ – tears in the case of Amy’s daughter – but this is more than outweighed by the excitement as packs are opened and collections built.

In a world in which retailers are competing for every visit and brands are competing for every purchase, anything that locks a shopper into your store or brand has got to be a winning tactic.

Thirdly, join forces and amplify. Each week there are hundreds of price discounts on products. Your brand is just another brand on deal. However, when you are part of something bigger you benefit from the collective power of the event. For instance, a shared visual code (red in the case of Comic Relief), secondary display presence alongside brand leaders, and the relevance and timing of the event. Price promotions happen every day. Events like Comic Relief, World Cup, Fathers Day don’t. Short, amplified bursts are often more effective than just sitting on promotion each week.

Finally, Change the Promotional Frame. In Comic Relief the focus is on the donation not the discount. The shopper frame of reference has changed from ‘what can I save’ to ‘what can I contribute?’ This means a brand owner is giving much less away to the shopper in order to get sales uplifts. It also means you are doing something your competitors can’t do. If you do a third off this week, your competitor can do exactly the same next week. Or go even deeper. Whoever is on discount wins. If Persil is part of Comic Relief, Ariel isn’t. So, Ariel can’t do what Persil are doing.

We are not saying don’t do price discounts.  And we are not saying make every event like Comic Relief.  What we are saying, is that doing what we have always done will give us results that we have always got.

What if we thought differently, changed the frame of reference for the shopper and incentivised them in a different way?  Brands typically win through differentiation.  Why can’t promotions?

Feel free to foward.  Have a great weekend and speak to you next week.