phrase 'plus ça change (plus c'est la même chose)' might as well
have been written about the world of sales promotion. Now more than
ever, when we face a uniquely challenging economic landscape,
marketers should take time to reflect on the successes and failures
of yesteryear to bolster brand values and secure customer loyalty
in an uncertain future. So, this week we are honoured to share an
interview with Colin Lloyd, a veritable sales promotion godfather,
who has recently written an impressive tome on the subject: "Beyond Redemption:
The First Ever History of Sales Promotion." Well worth a
What lessons can Beyond Redemption teach us,
particularly in today's challenging climate?
In a downturn response levels increase which can skew
fixed fee response calculations. There is more couponing and
discounting than ever and if brands are not careful promotions
become the brand. Having thought about it, looking back over
5 decades, some of the very best creative ideas were developed in
recessionary time. Maybe the promotion industry is good under
During the recession of the 90's, owners of the top 7
promotion agencies (known as the 'Magnificent 7') identified the
"20 commandments of running a promotion company in recessionary
times". The lessons are a relevant today as they were then. We'll
give you a few insights here, but if you want to read them all,
you'll have to buy the
- Sell ideas that sell: be a salesman first and
- Cherish ideas and innovation above everything
- Never resort to price-cutting
- Demand the best of your people, your suppliers and your
- Keep on keeping it simple
Everyone cites 'Hoover Free
Flights' as the benchmark of promotional catastrophe, but are
there any other worthy failures that are less well known?
Hoover (£46 million) pales into financial
insignificance against a promotion that The Labour Party initiated
some 15 years ago called the Connections Card intended to reward
pupils for attending school. According to Marketing Magazine they
quietly wrote off £100 million of taxpayers money when they closed
it. (We heard the actual figure was many times this
When I was running KLP I had a promotion with Asda that
someone else got wrong but cost me £5 million. A salutary lessons
for anyone in our business.
We've detailed the classic of a Pepsi promotion in the US
for a bottle top collection with thousands of normal aspirational
prizes. However some bright spark decided to spice it up a bit and
have a first prize of a Mig Fighter Jet
for millions of bottle tops which they assumed no one would get.
Guess what!! The judges summing up makes good reading.
What happens to a brand when a campaign goes wrong? We
have vociferous complaints about several promotions on PromoWatch, but the
brand seems to carry on regardless.
For each of the last five decades we have included a section
called 'Interludes' which is just a polite euphemism for cock-ups.
Sadly for our industry we could have written a couple more books on
the interludes alone. Although one rather strange pattern that
emerged is that the promotions have done rather well for brand
Are there really 'no new ideas' in marketing / sales
promotion. Are we just re-packaging the same old
Almost certainly, in fact the known advent of many familiar
concepts go back a surprisingly long way:
|Extra Product Free
||early 1800s to 1948
||The Co-Op Dividend
||Weekly Despatch Magazine
very wrong as did a Cadbury's Crème Eggs promotion in 1984 in
exactly the same way
||Davis Milling (now Quaker Oats)
||Henry Ford Motor Company
||BT's Dial a Disk
|Well, a free listen anyway - it
achieved 100 million 'downloads/listens' in a year
The 'Free-Entry' competition route which created the
milestone John Player Spot
Cash legal ruling (1978) may have been the last real
development in sales promotion. However I am always
optimistic that the mould will be broken.
Many web-based promotions seem to follow a similar
mechanic. Is the web actually killing creativity?
I was hoping that digital promotions would make the
breakthrough. However so far we have the same techniques just
delivered in a different way. Perhaps the good news is that it is
cheaper to create promotions on-line, so more of the benefit can be
passed onto the consumer. The biggest problem is really
differentiation and response levels. I rarely hear of an on-line
promotion delivering over 1 million redemptions which would have
been a failure 30 years ago. In fairness I did hear of a 20 million
redemption for a major supermarket a few days ago.
What developments might the future bring
for mechanics, media etc?
My own view is that despite the theory of the 'Integration
Bandwagon' we still have a silo mentality when it come to media. I
believe that integration is a way of thinking, not a way of buying.
Some of the most powerful promotions ever used multiple media
channels. One frustrating example; why does no one use the
emotional values of radio advertising and programming in harmony
with the pragmatic values of direct mail? It's because Royal Mail
won't link up with the the Radio industry. One plus one can create
magic. Add a decent promotion and the gearing effect would be huge.
The TV business wants to talk to the promotions industry but does
not know how to. The reverse is also true. Lets get the dialogue
going. I often quote that 95% of all direct marketing carries a
promotional proposition. However the DM industry thinks that
promotion is just a prize draw, thanks to Readers Digest. Another
dialogue that needs to get going!
What is your stance on the slippery slope of a perpetual
We are in a vicious spiral. Our largest food
manufacturer confessed to me the other day that they are in spiral
and its costing hundreds of millions off their bottom line. The
retailers are in the same position and no one can break it. The
consequences are good for the consumer in the short term. However
R&D budgets are being raided so successful new products will be
thin on the ground. Its no coincidence that some of the best new
products have come from a couple of people in a garage.
The only way out of this cycle is creativity. A truly great
idea with courageous clients and passionate agencies will always
win through in the end. If you don't believe it try another
Does sales promotion still excite you?
Yes - even more so because of the challenges. If my wife would
let me, I would start another pure sales promotion agency and not
mess around disguising it as something else. I remember 30 years
ago I was going to start an ad agency. However a wise client of
mine persuaded me not to. He said that there are dozens of good ad
agencies but so very few good promotion agencies. However I did
eventually buy my old agency that I used to work for and that did
not work so he was right after all.
What is your favourite campaign from Beyond Redemption
There are so many. We interviewed the great and the good from
across the industry. The authors have chosen their best campaign of
all time, but many others chose a promotion that my agency did for
Andrex (but I could not possibly comment on that). There are some
irreverent ones that made myself and others laugh out loud. Some
reflect the amazing ingenuity that the public will go to with a
promotion. Therefore in that context I would have to choose the
Feedsaks container premium promotion from the US (details in the
Are you working on any other publications, perhaps a
fictional work - an Enron story for the sales promotion
Great idea. When I have come down from this book I will think
about it. There was a great book written 10 years ago simply called
'E'. Its about an agency pitching for a new account but all the
text is emails. Its priceless. Maybe I will do one called 'text'
where all the copy is a sequence of texts about a sale promotion
agency handling the next Hoover. I'm smiling already.
Any final message for our readers?
It's a quote from Jim Slater one of the greatest financiers of
the70's and 80's. In the middle of the fog of 80's recession,
which we seem to be in today, he said "In the absence of a Crystal
Ball the next best thing is a History Book". Hopefully Beyond
Redemption will be the Crystal Ball for many in the promotion