This year on Valentine’s day we will spend more than 20 BILLION DOLLARS1. Brands have spent Billions to get their fair share of the sales.
Brands are on an auto-pilot mode as they don’t want to miss a single celebration. After Valentine’s Day it will be Easter, then Cinco De Mayo, then Mother’s Day also in May and then Father’s Day in June. Retailers like to celebrate each of these days with a lot of energy, hoping it will bring them closer to us customers.
Not only the special days, but brands want to get closer to our personal life too, and some brands go the extra mile to try to include themselves in our birthday celebration. A few years back, I received a gift on my birthday that totally startled me. A lingerie company sent me a personal letter with a classy printed card that said, “Happy Birthday Arjun. Here is a free sports bra for your birthday!”
When I got this, I could not believe it. I thought it was a prank from one of my friends. But the more I thought about it, I realized that my daughter shops in that store and I had taken her there a few times. Here is my recreation of memory:
- Every time my pre-teen daughter and I went to the store, I felt quite embarrassed. I simply wanted to do my task, pay and leave. In fact, when we left the store, I wish I had a brown paper bag in which I could carry the stuff my daughter bought from the lingerie store.
- On one occasion as I was getting ready to pay, my daughter discovered that the she gets a free product if we share our email address and other personal information with the store. I honestly did not care and was ready to do whatever it took to get out of the store. I gave the email address and other personal information (like my birthday) and left the store.
- I then realized that this was the input the store had used. Even though the “free sports bra” offer initially had shocked me, the more I thought about it, I felt there were quite a few good elements to this gesture. Here are few:
- They put in the effort to find out my birthday and to remember it.
- The document that they sent me on my birthday was a classy one and completely customized to me.
The gift, a free sports bra, was way more valuable than the free cookie or the buy one get one free offers brands normally send. But then what was wrong with the offer? They automated their offer and sent the same offer to every customer. Did they not take the time to think that that teen daughters with dads (accompanying and paying) are a big segment? Hence, it is not the value of the gift but the relevance that matters.
I want to ask retailers around the world the following questions:
- We can be friends but why are you trying to force yourself into all aspects of my life? Can I not have my birthday celebration without you trying too hard to be included in the party?
- Why can’t some moments be left to the customer to enjoy? Offering a Valentine’s Day selection to help me is nice, but creating Valentine’s Day décor and having each employee dress up in the spirit of Valentine’s Day may make some of the customers uncomfortable.
- I know you may run all the numbers to “whoosh” my suggestions and keep doing all these promotions as I am sure some of them are profitable for your brand. But, can I please make one request to you? Can you please never ever send me a free sports bra again? As a single dad with a daughter, it is really embarrassing. It will be forever a Hall of Fame embarrassing moment for us.