Hot weather can make people act in impulsive ways. Whether it is buying an ice cream, holding an impromptu barbecue or paying a visit to a local attraction, people are more inclined to engage with brands on the spur of the moment during the warm summer months.
It is not surprising, then, that as temperatures have soared to record levels in July, with further mercury-busting days forecast, brands are tapping into the feel-good factor and fighting for customer spend by experimenting with new vouchers and discount offers.
Moving into the second half of summer, it is not too late to take advantage but marketers must show agility and work at speed to avoid missing out on the opportunity. In the rush to create compelling tactical offers, they must also ensure that promotions are suitable to their brand values and overall marketing strategy.
Gastro pub group Geronimo Inns runs promotions that are primarily aimed at generating brand loyalty and advocacy, rather than a sharp sales uplift.
In late June, the company sent an email to its 140,000-strong customer database (the Geronimo Club) offering 20% off Pimm’s and prosecco if temperatures reached 30oC or higher during the following week. A couple of days later on 1 July, the temperature reached 36oC.
Marketing director Sian Timmermans explains that the promotion was a quick, fun and easy way for the brand to meet the increasing demand for drinking destinations during the first week of the Wimbledon Championships and the onset of heatwave temperatures.
“It’s important that we react because our customers react as well”
Sian Timmermans, Geronimo
“Some people have their diaries planned months in advance but others will say ‘it’s a beautiful day, it has been a difficult day at work, let’s head to the pub’. We send out an email a couple of hours before they finish work and hopefully we are the first port of call for them to visit us over a competitor”, she says.
The email offer achieved Geronimo Inns’ average redemption rate for promotions of 2.5%. Timmermans also points out that by limiting the offer to Pimms and prosecco, the pub chain was able to “premiumise” its promotion by driving customers towards more expensive drink options.
In addition to gaining access to these time-limited promotions, Geronimo Club members receive various exclusive benefits including free tea and coffee refills at the company’s 37 London-based pubs.
For its promotional activities in the lead-up to the Rugby World Cup in September, Geronimo is also encouraging customers to sign up with their emails for a chance to win two tickets to the final.
Timmermans says that by running “value-added offers” as opposed to simple discounts, the brand is able to drive loyalty and grow its customer base. “Rather than being known as a discount brand or an offer brand, we want to deliver a lifestyle choice,” she adds.
Cheese producer Wyke Farms similarly uses vouchers and offers as part of its wider brand-building strategy. This month, the independent company is embarking on its 10th consecutive summer sampling tour, in which it is visiting 20 lifestyle, county, food and equine events across the UK.
The brand is also planning to place adverts in consumer magazines such as BBC Good Food and Good Housekeeping during the second half of the year and will run a TV advert in the autumn. Marketing manager Jennifer Gray notes that of all its media channels, experiential activations such as sampling are often the most effective way of communicating Wyke Farms’ provenance and quality credentials.
“We have a rich brand story to tell shoppers, covering family history, sustainability, farming and news about our award-winning cheddar and it’s often easier to convey these through a one-on-one interaction on the tasting stand than through other media where the interaction time is shorter,” she says.
In addition to samples, Wyke Farms is handing out product offers, coupons and recipe cards to encourage people to try the brand again once the tour is over. Richard Clothier, managing director at Wyke Farms, says the company sees a redemption rate on coupons of around 5% after sampling events and an upturn in sales at stores in event regions. The brand is sold in a range of supermarkets including Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose.
“The close interaction with shoppers [during the sampling tour] creates brand evangelists that have a strong infinity and loyalty to the brand,” explains Clothier.
“They enjoy the samples and interaction on the stand, take a good sales deal home and get used to interacting with the brand in their home before hopefully going into store and buying the product, or asking for it where it isn’t ranged. It creates strong loyalty that you wouldn’t attain through other forms of brand support.”
Free-range egg producer The Happy Egg Company, which trades on its natural and ethical brand values in a similar fashion to Wyke Farms, is using on-pack voucher codes this summer to tie its own promotional campaign directly to its products. Last month, the Noble Foods-owned brand announced a partnership with Kingswood, a provider of outdoor adventure trips for young people, in which it is offering schools the chance to save up to £1,000 off their next trip by collecting the codes featured on eight million promotional packs.
Rob Newell, marketing director at The Happy Egg Company, says the brand opted to run the promotion during the summer in order to take advantage of the “heightened awareness of ubiquitous ‘kids go free’ activity” at this time of year. However, while some promotions are easy to create and integrate into wider marketing campaigns, he says its on-pack offer was logistically challenging and required a high level of investment and pre-planning (see full Q&A here).
Each unique on-pack code is worth £10 off the cost of a school trip. By incentivising parents to collect the codes for their children’s schools, The Happy Egg Company hopes to drive awareness about its wholesome brand values and encourage families to try the product. The campaign is being supported by in-store merchandising units and an educational bus tour of county agricultural shows that the company is also undertaking this summer.
Alternatives to financial offers
Not all brands are sold on the benefits of discounts or financial incentives, however. Hotel operator QHotels, which runs 27 properties across the UK, avoids cutting prices on its wedding services in order to retain the confidence of its customers. The company instead seeks to create compelling offers by packaging different QHotel services together. This includes a current offer for people who book a wedding before the end of June next year to receive a free two-night ‘mini-moon’ break at one of its hotels.
Marketing director Claire Rowland explains that the promotion is intended to attract couples looking to plan a wedding at relatively short notice.
“We don’t want to discount the actual wedding because we don’t want to devalue what we offer at our hotels,” she says. “But given the competition that’s out there, there’s often a requirement for us to fill a gap. With the mini-moon trend, where people are waiting to have a proper honeymoon because they can’t afford it straight after the wedding, we thought our offer would be a good way to get people back experiencing QHotels.”
Last month, the company also launched a new competition called the Wedding Speech Awards. The three-month contest is further intended to drive awareness and customer enquiries about QHotels’ wedding facilities without the company having to resort to discounted offers.
People can enter by uploading videos of speeches made at weddings on the hotel group’s Twitter and Facebook pages. Prizes including golf lessons and spa days at QHotels locations
will be awarded across different categories such as best man and father of the bride.
Rowland claims the competition is a unique, fun way of getting people to discuss QHotels during the busy summer wedding season. Whether cutting prices or not, marketers planning their own promotional activities over the coming weeks should also seek to innovate and find the option that best suits their brand.
“We have had a lot of interest [in the competition] on social media and from some local and national press, so the coverage is coming through earned media rather than paid for media,” notes Rowland. “We’re not putting a big advertising budget behind it because it doesn’t need it.”