Thursday, May 15, 2008

Will you pretend to love me if I bribe you?

I'm pretty sure nobody takes this route on their quest for true love in their personal life. So why do marketers continue to market this way?

We give coupons to consumers to "incentivize" them (please people, this is not a word) or to reward loyalists.

If you're giving a coupon to a consumer because they can't possibly understand what your product is all about unless they try it and it is too costly for most people to want to take that leap of faith then I suppose I'm OK with it. (Although you really should find a way to tell your story so that people can understand it.) Even so, you should be targeting those coupons to the right people. When you just blast them out, you're more likely to put them in the hands of people who will already want to buy your product without an incentive.

But you better make sure that your product (or, really, offering) is exceptional (as perceived by someone other than you). If it is, they will buy it. And they will not need an external incentive. The offering should be its own incentive.

Now, on to loyalty. My dictionary defines "loyal" as "unswerving in allegiance". If you need to reward your consumer (i.e., bribe them) with something that is non-essential to the relationship, then they are not loyal. By definition.

It's OK to reward a loved one with a gift. It's a symbol of your relationship. It is not the cause of your relationship. If it is, you do not have love. You have mutual expediency. And the reward cannot be the essence of the relationship. It makes no sense to reward someone for loving you by loving them extra that day. The love has to already be there on its own. You can reward them with something external to the essence. Something that symbolizes the essence (flowers, diamonds...)

When you give people a coupon, you're just giving them your offering for free. But your offering is the essence of your relationship with them. If you have to give that away for free then they do not truly value it. You do not have love.

Better to find the people that really love you than to seek out consumers and ask them to behave as if they love you (i.e., buy your offering) in return for a bribe (i.e., the coupon). It doesn't make sense in your personal life and it isn't any smarter in business.

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