When Promotions Go Wrong…

Recently, Domino’s Pizza in Russia launched what I thought would be a VERY cool campaign – 100 free pizzas every year for 100 years for any customer willing to tattoo the Domino’s brand on a visible part of their body.  Who could have anticipated that hundreds and hundreds of people would be willing to do that (check out some of the artwork)?  So many, in fact, that Domino’s had to issue a statement capping the number of accepted winners at 350.

This promotion reminded me of the promotional fiasco McDonald’s created in 1984 for the Summer Olympics that year.  As Tim Loc writes:  “Before the start of the 1984 Olympics, McDonald’s struck up the idea of giving away free items for every medal that the U.S. won. How it worked was that a patron, upon purchasing an item at Mickey D’s, would get a scratch-off card with an Olympic event on it. If the U.S. team won gold in that event, the patron would get a Big Mac. If the team won silver, the patron got french fries. Bronze meant a free soft drink. In certain respects, this was a genius idea because it gave us a tangible investment in the Games; Carl Lewis’ success would be our success. We were participating from the seats of our own couch. The motto was “U.S. Wins, You Win.”

What could go wrong?  The idea was a good one.  The commercials were compelling.  Well….the Soviets elected to boycott the Games that year, meaning that U.S. athletes won.  Often.  They won so much that McDonald’s even ran out of Big Macs at some locations according to the New York Times.

What’s the moral of this story?  Make sure you can fulfill and sustain the claims on your business resulting from promotions.  Understand the financial ramifications of your offer.  Don’t underestimate how many “takers” you will have.

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