Promotions gone wild
As business owners think up new ways to get attention, their customers are taking notice.
By Jessica Seid, staff writer

NEW YORK ( -- Not since Crazy Eddie have business owners gone to such extremes to get attention, although now their tactics are ingenious instead of insane.

Over Labor Day weekend, Gonigam's World Furniture Mall near Chicago offered customers up to $10,000 of free furniture if the Chicago Bears shut out the Green Bay Packers.

During the Beer for Bags exchange, customers could trade certain types of beer for bags: one case of Leffe and a bottle of Chimay got you a $95 Complete Seed bag.
Long John Silver's offered to give customers free "Giant Shrimp" if NASA found conclusive evidence of an ocean on Mars.

After the Bears beat the Packers 26-0, over two hundred customers came in and cleared out about $300,000 worth of merchandise. Fortunately, owner Randy Gonigam had insured the store with a company that specializes in prize reimbursement insurance.

Since then, "we've seen a dramatic increase in traffic to our Web site," Gonigam said. "We had a slight uptick in business last weekend, but nothing dramatic," although Gonigam believes that the promotion will continue to reap long-term benefits.

"An awful lot of the people we've talked to plan to buy more stuff."

In another unusual move, Australian marketer Crumpler hosted a "Beers for Bags" event this summer in New York. Customers could trade bottles of Chimay, Brooklyn Lager and Guinness, for messenger bags, laptop cases and bean bag chairs.

As soon as Crumpler began accepting beer for merchandise, the company's two New York stores were flooded with customers, the owners said.

"We have found that since 'Beer for Bags,' sales have increased in the two Crumpler stores in New York by about 10 percent, and by about 20 percent in specialty retailers around the country stocking Crumpler, which is totally awesome!" said Bianca Dillon, Marketing Manager.

"Overall the 'Beer For Bags' promotion increased brand awareness of Crumpler in both New York and nationwide," Dillon said.

The company hopes to make "Beer For Bags" an annual event, as it is in Australia.

Business owners are hoping that the business generated by the publicity will more than compensate for the cost of an insurance policy, explained James Chung, president of Mass.-based marketing strategy firm Reach Advisors. They are also calculating that their money will be better spent on insurance than on advertising.

"But, to make these things work, it's a matter of figuring out what will catch the attention of your particular audience," Chung said.

The key, Chung explained, is to "break through the cluttered marketplace and hit your audience, otherwise, it's just noise."

"I'm not trying to say that this is what every marketer should do every time, but it's a tactic that can bring excitement to the brand," he added.

In 2004, Long John Silver's did just that. The seafood chain took a gamble when it offered to give customers free "Giant Shrimp" if NASA found conclusive evidence of an ocean on Mars.

When news of the discovery came, Chief Marketing Officer Mike Baker said "there's no better way to recognize their giant accomplishments than with free Giant Shrimp for America."

Long John Silver's took out an insurance policy to cover the cost of the promotion, although the NASA's Mars Rover discovery came after the policy had expired.

Still, the company, which is a division of Yum! Brands (Charts), decided to honor the offer and eat the cost of the shrimp.

"It was a huge success," said Rick Maynard, a spokesman for the restaurant.

"It's not just about getting the brand out there, but getting the brand out there in a fun way."

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