10 November 2009

Vending Maching Marketing in a Bad Economy

Had a very interesting experience yesterday and today.

Since we've moved into our new building at work (October 9th), I hadn't used the food vendo.  It doesn't look as inviting as I think they thought it would and frankly, we had more stuff at the old building.  But I needed something savory to fill the need and I chose a 50¢ bag of T.G.I.Friday's Potato Skins (crisps) - Cheddar and Bacon flavor.

Printed on the package was a teaser that said "Get 5 bucks off your next restaurant visit". I'm normally a skeptic to these tactics as you usually need to accumulate something like 200 bags worth to get that reward, but when I flipped over the bag, there was an actual coupon for $5 off next visit provided I spent $15. Good for dine-in only, not valid on alcoholic bevs.

Now, I haven't been to a T.G.I.Friday's in probably 5 years, but I'm sure that between two people, you can hit $15 without blinking an eye. To boot, the coupon is good for a YEAR (through October 31, 2010)

So that's quite a return on investment for a bag of chips.  But the story doesn't end here.

Without really thinking about it, I passed by the vendo again this morning and just took out 50¢ more and bought another bag.  Part of me quite liked them from yesterday and part of me wanted another $5 coupon to share with friends.  But when the bag dropped and I pulled it out of the jaws of death machine, there was no coupon.

I stood bewildered wondering what the heck happened and felt a real sense of loss.  I looked back into the machine and noticed that there was a bag with the teaser tag about three behind.

In the elevator back up to the sixth floor I started analyzing the whole scenario from a Market Researcher's point of view.
  • Does the vending company purposely put those bags every nth bag in the machine to drive multiple purchase? (or do they even notice it since usually these are just guys slapping product into machines)
  • Does T.G.I.Friday's distribution/logistics group only put x-number of bags in each carton that goes to vendo companies?
  • It seems that this promo might actually just drive someone to buy more product versus driving someone to dine-in, thus driving bigger sales.  IS TGIF okay with that or would they consider that a failure.
  • Is the year expiration date just driven by the cycle of how long it takes the product to be consumed after production?
  • Does TGIF realize that they do not serve this product specifically in their stores?
  • Are they trying this strategy on their frozen products that you can buy and make at home or would the perceived value of $5 just be an off-set of the price paid for those products?
  • Since there is a coupon code on there, I assume they are tracking redemption.  So how is it going?
Of course, I also realize that the ROI on my bag of chips from yesterday dropped a bit since I've now spent $1 but it has made me think about going back and trying them.  If anything, they've raised my awareness level and almost have driven me to try them again and that, in my business, is a step in the right direction.  If you have no relevance to me, then you have no chance of ever getting my brand loyalty, so kudos!!

to clarify: It's not that I don't like them, in fact, I do but we don't eat much at these kinds of places lately, it's just not part of the decision process right now.

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