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Mar 20, 2017

There’s no such thing as a free coffee!

by Kevin Frost - Creative Partner

There’s no such thing as a free coffee!

Finally, we see that Waitrose are withdrawing their free coffee for My Waitrose cardholders. Great while it lasted but hey, at least Starbucks' profits will get back to normality in Clapham Junction at least.

So what has made them finally wake up and smell the coffee? Is it purely the ‘bean counters’ working out that the cost over its 4 years of being simply doesn’t stack up? Clearly it could be that someone has finally done the figures and worked out that despite its generous offer, it does little to encourage purchase.

However, I will be interested to see how many people embrace the new offer that it’s now free with a purchase, a very different proposition becoming a 'thank you' instead of a gift.

For years we have tried to seduce shoppers by offers that drive footfall on the basis that if you have the people in your stores they are more likely to spend.

But is this really a strategy we can continue to deploy when we know shoppers are becoming even more savvy to ‘brand bribery’ to purchase. Whatever we do to grab our target shopper’s attention needs to be true to the brand and a real enhancement to the shopper. It needs value way beyond monetary terms and to trigger the emotional values that we know drive behavioural change. Otherwise brands will continue to be at the mercy of retailers' pricing strategies.

I suppose this is why the Waitrose Coffee absolutely supported the brand’s values of partnerships and never knowingly undersold. It was something for nothing, simple and with mass appeal. It encouraged shoppers to meet in the larger stores like Bluewater for a ‘Free’ coffee so it ticked even the social boxes too.

The issue was it just wasn’t commercially sustainable so has simply ‘run out of steam’.

I think we can take some critical learnings from this though in the form of relevance and reality within our promotional thinking.

Brands like ‘Tastecard’ created an offer with real value, money off your meals. Great, and everyone got excited, grabbed their cards and went running to their favourite restaurants only to discover certain ‘terms and conditions’ applied! Those conditions generally got in the way when you really wanted to use it!

We need to associate offers to the brand’s use or consuming moments that enhance the brand's worth and makes it even more pleasurable. Those moments of truth that matter in a consumer's life when they enjoy their purchase and congratulate themselves on their choice of product.

Basically, it’s like most things, keep it simple, keep it relevant and keep it real.

Anyway, I’m off to Waitrose before the coffee runs out!

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