Published on August 2nd, 2012 | by Molly Martin0
How Sears And 7-Eleven Can Spin Misfortune Into Marketing Gold
Hey, guys, what’d I miss? What’s happening over at Chick-Fil-A? *muffled explanation* Ohhhhhhh, they’re using a specious and hateful interpretation of some people’s religious and moral beliefs as a lever by which to catapult waffle fries into every home (and human rights out of every window)? Got it. Bet they’re getting all sorts of publicity, good and bad, huh? *muffled explanation* Oh. Why does Mike Huckabee care? Does he own stock?
So negative news–especially news that cuts right down the cultural battle lines–isn’t always bad news for the old moola pouch. The profit bucket. The cash stash. The coin catcher. *Insert other aphorism for bank that no one has ever used ever.* And Chick-Fil-A isn’t the only example, of course. On the gay rights issue, alone, you find JC Penney standing on the other side.
Sure, they took conservative heat for keeping openly gay Ellen Degeneres as their spokeswoman. But they also gained a heap of publicity and a few new customers from a group of folks, many of whom are Gen Xers who haven’t set foot in a Penney’s since the day their mom reassured them that “Arizona jeans are just as rad.”
So if two companies can benefit from taking sides in a polarizing social debate, surely companies can turn lesser lemons into lemonade. And so I turn my attention to two retail denizens of my youth who’ve had some not-so-great headlines this month: Sears and 7-Eleven.
Let’s start with 7-Eleven because (a) you don’t end anything at 7-Eleven if you know what’s good for you and (b) I would BATHE in Slurpee right now if I had one. So yesterday (August 1) in Newington, Connecticut 52-year-old David Wright put the ”DUCK!” in “I’ll just duck into 7-Eleven for some Milwaukee Beast” when he punched the female clerk for calling him “Honey.” He asked about a price–presumably on raw meat for his knuckles–and when greeted by the pet name, told the clerk he’d punch her if she called him that again. She reportedly asked for clarification and got the ol’ facial handshake for her trouble.
Okay, I don’t love being called Honey, Darling, or Sweetheart by strangers. And, yes, anyone who’s ever seen a Bugs Bunny cartoon knows you don’t repeat the offending behavior when asking Yosemite Sam about said offenind behavior (“I dare you to cross this line!” “Now I dare you to cross THIS line!”) or pretty soon someone walks off a cliff.
But he had no right to hit her. We don’t punch each other at the 7-Eleven. Or the Circle K. Or the Speedway. Okay, maybe the Speedway.
But can we look past the awfulness of how we treat each other and get right to the heart of the matter? How can 7-Eleven make this worth their while from a marketing perspective? Especially since they should probably write a certain clerk a big-ass check?
I say the seize the moment and sponsor promotion: the 100th customer to not punch a clerk [whose day is probably bad enough anyway because she works in a place where you could get punched in the face and that smells like an ancient Slim Jim had sex with a blue raspberry] gets a free Slurpee?
They could also update their in-store signage:
- “Our clerks can take a hit but you can take a chance on getting knocked up? Ancient condoms on Aisle Six!”
- “If you came here to punch something, here’s a Big Gulp card!”
- “Getting jacked in the face so your neighbors across town don’t find out you eat Hostess Sno-Balls since 1927.”
- “Witness a hit, cats? Get free Kit Kats!”
But what if your marketing foe isn’t some slap-happy human? What if your marketing challenge is Man vs. Beast? You can’t reason with a wild animal. A disgruntled customer punching people is one thing but how on Earth do you combat public perception that your stores are overrun by bears?
Two weeks ago on July 21 an eleven-year-old bear wandered into a Pittsburgh-area mall, making a stop at Sears when it got trapped in between two sets of automatic doors. Nearby a bear tried to hit the Olive Garden.
Now this is slightly trickier than 7-Eleven’s problem. I mean, bears are smart creatures. Of course they’ll be drawn by great value. But you can’t set massive metal traps at all the doors of your restaurant or spray all the Kenmores in your Home Appliances department with Bigger Meaner Bear Urine. No. All you can do is surrender. Lean in. Own your new identity as Bear Central.
For Sears, I recommend a new set of slogans:
- “Good life. Great price. Run! Bears!”
- “Run for your life here.”
- “Come see the softer side of bears.”
- “There’s a 50/50 chance you’ll get to see a bear eat a cardboard cut-out of Ty Pennington.”
- “There’s a 30/70 chance you’ll get to see a bear eat Ty Pennington.”
It will be a challenge for Sears to get the message just right. It’s hard to be pithy about bears overrunning one of America’s oldest retailer. Perhaps they could take a cue from Olive Garden, where I guarantee you their crack ad team was prepared for just such an occasion. Now, who’s coming with me to Bearrissimo?!?!?