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Pumpkin Spice Marketing

Johnny Molson


Rare, Remarkable, and have a Reason

Planters has pumpkin spice almonds. Kahlua offers pumpkin spice rum. There’s pumpkin spice Life cereal. Pumpkin spice Oreos. Pumpkin spice dish soap from Mrs. Meyer’s. And for $160, Saucony.com will sell you a pair of pumpkin spice running shoes.

Starbucks is the likely epicenter of the annual pumpkin spice insanity, so what can we learn from them?

They follow the “3-R Rule” that every business should follow when doing a promotion or having a sale. It needs to be Rare, Remarkable, and have a Reason.

Much like a wooden stool, if you take away one of the legs of the 3 Rs, you can expect it to all fall over.

Rare. Car dealers, mattress stores, JC Penny, and appliance stores are not good role models. If you miss the sale this weekend, one will surely come along next weekend. When you are constantly having sales or special events two things happen:

Thing 1: If you are always having a special event, by definition, you aren’t really having a special event. Sir Paul McCartney could perform every single night at the same place in town, and eventually the glitter would wear off. But if he puts 6 years between tours, suddenly he’s filling up Wembley Stadium with no problem.

Thing 2: Constant sales create a bad habit for your customers. I will never pay full price for a refrigerator, because next weekend it will be $150 off.

Bonus thing: Congratulations, you just cut deep into your profits; the lifeblood of your business.

Remarkable. A local diner offers 5% off your breakfast every Tuesday. Golly – what are you going to do with that extra .35 cents? Go big or forget it. Make my jaw drop and my eyebrows pop 3 inches into my forehead.

Be very specific about what you are doing. “Save 20% storewide” tells me nothing.

“Buy a stove and get a refrigerator free.” OK…now we’re talkin’ remarkable.

Reason. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, 9/11, and Memorial Day are all horrible reasons to have a sale. Most holidays are a bad reason to have a sale*. My friends and client Yate’s Jewelers in Modesto, California just celebrated 30 years in business. Yes! That is a legitimate reason to celebrate. You just opened a new location. Yes! Do that. You only get to be “new” once. An annual private event for loyal customers. Sure! That’s a good reason AND it’s rare. Columbus Day? National Softball Awareness Week? Harry Truman’s birthday? Skip it.

*For obvious reasons, certain holidays are acceptable since we are accustomed to shop because of the holiday. Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Christmas/Hanukah/etc.

Here’s the big eye-opener: “Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Lattes” aren’t on sale. They sell those babies full price. And we eagerly pay it. Create something so special and desirable that people not only wait, but they pony up the full ticket…now you’ve got something.

Don’t succumb to the belief that people are always shopping for the lowest price. Nobody wants to pay more than they believe they have to. Did you catch that? Nobody wants to pay more than they believe they have to.

Low price only wins in a tie.

If your customer feels your product is pretty much the same as the other product, the only way to break the tie is by having a lower price.

Treat sales and promotions like a hot oven. Don’t lean on it. Don’t leave your food (profits) in it. Don’t let your baby (your business) play around it.

Johnny Molson

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