I grew up hearing the verse, “Where your ‘treasure’ is, there your heart will be also,” and I think about this often. Treasure can mean different things to different people; however, I think many people would replace this word treasure with time and/or money. I value both of these assets and go to great lengths to protect them for myself, and others. So much so that when I hear the word FREE my ears perk up like a dog and I search for more details. This word FREE motivates and excites me as much as saving money with a coupon. For me, it is a natural high when I can save money on something I like. What surprises me is when great offers, great sales promotions fall flat. Why is that especially during an economic downturn?
I belong to two movie club sites (gofobo and txtmovieclub) so I get the inside track on free local movie screenings. Last week I went to a screening at the newly remodeled AMC Esplanade where I had the unforgettable “brand” experience of seeing a movie in a soft leather chair that reclined while eating a prime rib sandwich and parmesan fries both of which melted in my mouth. When I was finished eating, my server brought me a hot, moist towelette to wipe my hands and a side of popcorn drizzled with what I think was white chocolate. It was dark and all I knew was it was tasty. As I exited the theatre the attendants wished me a nice day and offered me Ghiradelli wrapped chocolates from their silver platters. I walked away with my jaw literally on the ground.
After my AMC Dine-In Theater experience, you can imagine my excitement to learn about their “Free Movies for a Year” Giveaway to kickoff their grand opening. I read about it on the movie club’s Facebook page; but, I also noticed this incredible offer was posted a number of places online. You can bet I was not going to miss out on this opportunity. All I had to do was be one of the first 100 guests who dressed up as their favorite movie star or celebrity and they’d give me 24 free admission tickets and 12 free appetizers! Check-in was at 6am, tickets at 8am, right in time for the morning news coverage.
I set my alarm for 5 am praying that a 30-minute lead time before check-in would be enough. Well, as if it was the night before Christmas, I woke up repeatedly with excitement and nervousness. “What if I miss out?” “What if I get there too late?” At 1:15am I decided to just give in and head to the theatre.
Understand, I have spent hours camped out in lines…Big REI member-only sales and iPhone & iPad launches, so you might say I am an experienced “waiter.” I have the drill down: Camping chair? Check. Laptop? Check. iPhone, iPad and water? Check, check, check. Oh, and let’s not forget the costume…
Not that Mary Lou Retton is my favorite celebrity, but I had some criteria and some advantages for making that choice. First I needed something comfortable and cool since it was after all, 2 am and believe it or not, still 90 degrees in Phoenix. I had the perfect blue & white lightweight comfort-wear and I’m built for the part–I stand a towering 5 feet. With anxiousness I arrived at the theatre parking deck and noticed a few cars but certainly not 100, so I was hopeful. I gathered my goods and headed to the theatre.
When I arrived I was SHOCKED! I was number 11 in line! How could this be? Didn’t the other moviegoers and lovers of awesome FREE things see this offer? By 6 am we were moved downstairs where we were greeted by the press who of course were hoping for a larger turnout for their TV segments. By 7:30 only 60 people waited in line. I actually felt sad for AMC and for the people who missed out on this great opportunity. I texted everyone I knew and screamed on Facebook, “GET DOWN HERE!”
When I got to work, treasure in hand, I shared my story with the HEASLEY&PARTNERS team and of course we discussed how this whole episode fit with Heart & Mind® Branding. Here was a company that offered up a great movie experience and they staged a worthy promotion to build business. The problem was, unless you already knew how great the experience was the likelihood of you using your “treasure” also known as “sleep time,” to get some FREE tickets was pretty slim. Without the Experience, the Promise of FREE had little value.
At HEASLEY&PARTNERS, we define a brand as the Promise + The Experience. My story shows how important it is, as marketers, to make sure they work together. I knew how great the experience was at this theatre, so I valued the FREE promise. The theatre got news coverage out of the promotion and certainly that was an objective, so they scored there. But if their mission was to gain more trial, they did hit their 100 mark–eventually more people showed up once the news aired the story. But the point is, “the experience” is critical to brand success, even when you’re giving stuff away for FREE. AMC won my heart with the experience first…then the promise. So there’s your answer!
What is branding? Heart & Mind® Branding.