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Ideas. Insights. Inspiration.

A Tale of Two Cereal Promos

It was the best of promos...

One cereal brand, targeted at children (but likely enjoyed by people of all ages), recently decided to offer an on-pack promotion: a free Team Canada t-shirt with every box of cereal purchased.

Why a Team Canada t-shirt? The manufacturer was an official supporter of the Canadian Olympic team. The t-shirts were available in one youth size and various adult sizes, so the promotion could benefit both the parents who would buy the cereal and the kids who would eat it.

The back of the cereal box featured pictures of the bright red t-shirts (in both of Canada's official languages), photos of various Team Canada athletes, and simple instructions (in both official languages) on how to redeem the offer. It was an attractive, visually pleasing panel to review as you were eating your breakfast.

Redemption was simple and took me less than five minutes from start to finish. Printed on the inside of the box were a website address and a unique redemption code; a consumer only had to visit the website, enter the unique code, choose the desired language and size, and provide a mailing address. And that was it. I clicked submit and was sent an email confirmation informing me my shirt would arrive within 8-10 weeks.

I don't have any data to know whether or not the promotion was a success. What I do know is that you needed to purchase a box of cereal to get a t-shirt, the fine print on the inside of the box indicates only 100,000 t-shirts were available, the offer was "good while supplies last or until October 31st, 2020", and I just tried to redeem a t-shirt code on the website... which now features a message stating, "Sorry This Promotion has Ended."

Don't feel bad for me: I had already redeemed four t-shirts. We eat a lot of cereal in my house.

It was the worst of promos...

Another cereal brand, targeted at children, also recently decided to offer a promotion: a $5 prepaid gas card for every two boxes of cereal purchased.

Why a gas card? According to the box, it was so the company could "help you and your family go farther by making the cost of fuel easier on your wallet." Let's ignore that a) the kids' cereal promotion would only benefit the parents buying the cereal, not the kids who would be eating it, b) while we're quarantining, most of us are likely driving much less than we were pre-pandemic, and c) there's not much exciting about a gas card. Let's just assume that somebody, somewhere, has data to suggest that offering a prepaid gas card as part of a children's promotion is a terrific idea that will boost sales.

The back of the cereal box was almost entirely text, explaining (in both of Canada's official languages) how to redeem the offer. To do so, you had to purchase two boxes of cereal... and both purchases needed to be on the same receipt. And you had to remember to save that receipt because you needed to take a photo of it and upload it to the special website designed for that purpose. If you're not in the habit of saving your grocery receipts... sorry, no gas card for you. If you weren't sure how to take a photo of your receipt, though, you were in luck! About 20% of the space on the back panel of the cereal box was dedicated to explaining what you needed to do, and offering "Tips on Taking Your Photo".

I can't tell you how long redemption took because I wasn't able to redeem the offer. You see, although I did have my receipt -- but only because my wife used click-and-collect at our local grocery store to buy the cereal, and they emailed her a copy -- the purchase needed to be made between February 20th and May 30th, and the receipt uploaded by June 13th. We bought the cereal on June 10th, and although the product was still clearly available, the offer had already ended.

I don't have any data to know whether or not the gas card promotion was a success.

Which promotion would more likely motivate you to buy some cereal?

I can't answer that for you, of course. I clearly like the t-shirt promotion better, but perhaps you get really, really excited about gas cards. There's no accounting for taste.

But I can say two things with confidence.

1) The redemption process for the gas card was far more difficult than it was for the t-shirt, and far more difficult than it needed to be. Making it more difficult to claim the offer would absolutely increase the profitability of the promotion, because people buying the cereal intending to redeem the gas card and then forgetting to do so means spending less on gas cards. But that extra profitability comes with the risk of decreased customer goodwill.. and you have to ask if that's worth it.

2) I was disappointed at not being able to redeem my fifth t-shirt... but I couldn't care less about missing out on the gas card.

A promotion is successful when it motivates you to buy.

A brand is successful when it motivates you to buy again, and again, and again.

- dp


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