It was the shot heard ‘round the world last week when Build-a-Bear Workshop posted an urgent message on social media that it was closing lines on its Pay Your Age marketing campaign just an hour or two after most shops opened. Some in different times zones still had not opened for business that day. The sale generated lines more than a mile long and wait times of more than five hours in some places, forcing local authorities to close the lines down for crowd control.
If you haven’t heard the news that hit every media outlet in the country, Build-a-Bear is an experience-based company where consumers can build their own stuffed animals. Those animals can cost upward of $50. Pay Your Age was a one-day promotion that would have saved many families a lot of money.
Build-a-Bear executives said there was no way they could have anticipated such a huge response. Perhaps not, but better planning using tools at their disposal would have kept this promotion from spinning out of control.
Here are some lessons for helping your financial institution avoid a marketing debacle of Build-a-Bear magnitude.
Do the math. Build-a-Bear has been in business 21 years. Surely the company knows how many customers it can serve in an hour. Simple multiplication would have told them exactly how many fluffy friends could be built during business hours the day of the event. Let’s say that number is 500. The promotion should be for the first 500 stuffed friends built that day. Simply going down the line and asking people how many they planned to build would have told them where to shut off the line.
Expand the length of the promotion. Build-a-Bear CEO Sharon Price John told Today Show hosts the promotion was designed to give as many kids as possible access to the experience of building their own furry friend. It that truly was the mission, they should have made the promotion more than one day. The real mission was to bring more attention to the company’s birthday program.
Have a contingency plan. Even the best laid plans sometimes go awry. Build contingency plans into every promotion…just in case. Build-a-Bear did not have one in place for this promotion. It scrambled to put something together that most likely will appease the majority of consumers, but it isn’t as strong as the original promotion.
This Build-a-Bear debacle is an example of how strong brands weather storms. The company will no doubt lose some customers over this, but the damage won’t be permanent. Build-a-Bear has been putting smiles on people’s faces for more than two decades. If your financial institution had made a mistake of this magnitude, how would it affect your brand? Your answer may be the biggest lesson you can learn from Build-a-Bear’s failure.