In sunnier climes this has manifested itself through the celebrated ‘Happiness Truck‘, a branded lorry dispensing presents ranging from surfboards to footballs to free Cokes.
Sixpence of Happiness
With the economy double dipping into recession like a hungry George Costanza at a funeral adding to the misery, Zeitgeist wondered whether the UK team had come up with a more straightforward and practical way to raise a smile.
A recent visit to a local Tesco Express to stock up on some essentials for a night in found this offer where shoppers were actually paid 6p to buy a second two litre bottle.
Clearly the offer is retailer lead. Much as Coca-Cola might want to sell more product they don’t have to resort to paying people to take it. Assuming it isn’t some kind of error, it highlights the power retailers have over manufacturers.
If a brand as loved and powerful as Coca-Cola can be devalued so easily what hope do lesser brands have?
Despite offering shoppers a great deal the promotion doesn’t really work in the retailers favour either.
As a compact store on the high street with no nearby parking available, most people shopping there would have been topping up. By incentivising them so heavily to buy an extra 2l bottle, Tesco are limiting how many other full price items shoppers can carry home.
In fact, the only obvious winner here was me, with an extra bottle of Coca-Cola and 6 pence in my pocket.
I promise to invest it wisely.
As if their continued efforts to save the Euro weren’t giving them enough of a headache, recent German attempts to sell cars and excite football fans have also failed to hit the mark.
As any Englishman will tell you, the weather has a nasty habit of messing up the best laid plans. From BBQs to Wimbledon, the rain can be relied on to appear when it is least welcome. Similarly the winters of 2009 and 2010 were unusually harsh just when retailers most needed people to be able to get out and spend their money.
So while we applaud their innovative thinking we can also sympathise with German agency Sassenbach Advertising who have seen their clever weather themed idea turn into a icy nightmare.
Seeking a “wind and weatherproof idea” to support the launch of the new Mini Cooper Roadster, they took advantage of the “adopt-a-vortex” scheme run by Berlin’s Free University and named the current high pressure front sweeping across Europe ‘Cooper’.
The campaign also involved buying a low front to be called ‘Minnie’ later in the year that one hopes will be less destructive.
A statement from BMW confirmed that while they had bought the names they didn’t have control over when they were used and that clearly, they regretted any loss of life.
While the whole episode has been highlighted as a bit of an gaffe, BMW and their agency haven’t done anything wrong and the €299 price tag for naming the weather seems cheap even though the publicity it has provoked isn’t what was planned.
The same can’t be said for German football giants Bayern Munich who upset their fans with an ill thought out launch of an app.
Last week, as the January transfer window was coming to a close, the club told their 2.7m Facebook fans that they had just signed a new striker who would be announced exclusively via a Facebook app in around an hour.
As the clock ticked down, fans debated which star they’d be seeing at Allianz Arena with Manchester based duo Carlos Tevez and Dimitar Berbatov among the suggestions.
However when the announcement was made it became clear that the club had misjudged things enormously.
A live stream with Markus Hörwick (Comms Director), Chrsitian Nerlinger (General Manager) and Philipp Lahm (Club Captain) announced that the new star player was actually the fan themselves, the 12th man of the squad.
The app then showed fake press announcements, mock interviews with star players welcoming the ‘new player’ and shirts with the users name.
What could have been a great value added experience resulted in a terrible user experience, compounded by the app crashing, with fans venting their anger on various social networks.
The press, who had also been kept in the dark showed great schadenfreude, gleefully spreading news of the failure which ended up trending worldwide on Twitter.
Within three hours the club had received over 5,000 complaints from angry fans and was forced to offer an apology.
Both brands will survive their difficult week. Mini because they didn’t do anything malicious and Bayern because disappointment is all part of being a football fan.
Let’s just hope their fiscal policies have better results.
How will the snow affect the UK retail landscape?
While the news at the time focused on stranded air passengers, a crippled transport network and the need for some inventive parenting to explain why Father Christmas was unable to deliver presents on time, the after-effects of December’s heavy snowfall are now being felt strongly on the UK high streets and shopping centres.
With the tinsel and fairy lights still in full view, it has been a far from Happy New Year for the number of retailers forced to announce that their sales were lower than expected with the consquences ranging from store closures and job losses to profits warnings. Many cited the unwelcome cold snap as compounding difficulties brought about by the economic crisis, changing consumer habits and threats appearing from non-traditional competitors.
First to register concern were HMV, who admitted in an unscheduled trading statement, that like-for-like sales across its UK and Ireland outlets had plunged by 13.6% in December. Having seen other music and entertainment retailers, including Zavvi, Our Price, Tower Records and even Woolworths bite the dust in recent years it isn’t surprising that the entertainment specialist is feeling the heat while the rest of us freeze.
Zeitgeist has already touched on how ‘In some industries, the concept of owning something tangibly has become redundant;‘, with music and film sitting high on that list. More worryingly for HMV as the owner of Waterstones bookshops is Amazon‘s online dominance of the category and the rise of devices like the Kindle and regular smartphones that are likely to eat into book sales in the coming years.
While the sub-zero temperatures may have kept shoppers out of their stores the weather can’t take all of the blame. This weekend, this half of Zeitgeist bought a CD as a friends birthday present. A quick look online showed the item retailing on HMV.com at £8.99, however in-store I was obliged to pay £17.99. The Sales Assistant helpfully told me that the difference was because online sales are shipped from Guernsey. I rather suspect that the lower price has more to do with the fact that other online stores such as Amazon.co.uk and Play.com are also selling the item for £8.99 than where the item is shipped from.
It’s not hard to see why the bricks-and-mortar stores are in so much trouble when they have to sell items for nearly double the online price to cover their overheads. In this instance the extra cost doubles as a ‘Failure to Plan‘ tax for me, but increasingly shoppers will go online for their entertainment needs rather than paying a premium for the convenience of getting it immediately on the high street. Alternatively they’ll simply download or stream it and do away with the need for any physical material purchase.
This final option shows how behaviour change can be brought about with the right motivations. For years now, we have been encouraged to reduce unnecessary waste and raw materials to help the environment. However, it is the convenience of having music, film, games and books stored digitally, rather on discs in plastic boxes or paper, that has proved more of a driver than any desire to save the planet.
For Clintons this is the second such warning in six months and time will tell whether ‘strategic intiatives‘ taken by the board will have the desired effect or whether as a nation, a new generation is growing up to wish ‘Happy Birthdays’ and ‘Merry Chistmases’ via text message or social media sites.
Encroachment on their traditional market by the major multiples hasn’t helped Mothercare and brokers Seymour Pierce have questioned quite how much of their problems are down to the snow.
With the Christmas period so crucial for many retailers there may be more similar statements being prepared in boardrooms up and down the land. The slightly milder weather in early January may help ‘The Sales’ boost some bottom lines, but with a number of retailers choosing to delay exposing shoppers to the increase in VAT the bargain hunters may not spend enough to make up the shortfall, particularly if they are saving for a more expensive 2011. If a handful of retailers do go under it begs the question, ‘Who will take over their retail space and what will the retail landscape look like in a couple of years from now?’.
In the meantime we’ll have to wait and see what legacy the snow is going to leave in other sectors such as insurance, utilities and travel. Either way, it might be an idea to start saving now for those premiums and gas bills.