merchandising for menswear.
The freebie that Walgreens is using to capture the attention of American consumers is health care. The retail drugstore chain just announced that it will provide free treatment to unemployed and uninsured consumers at its in-store clinics throughout 2009. Walgreens officials have no idea how much the promotion will cost the company in the next nine months, but they’re hoping that the publicity from the goodwill gesture will give the chain a foothold against rival CVS Minute Clinics.
The mother of all freebies award, however, should be presented to the Walt Disney Company for its year-long birthday ticket giveaway. Last week when I presented my driver’s license at the Guest Relations window and was given an admission ticket and a birthday button in return, I was surprised to see how many other people were in line doing the same. As I celebrated my birthday in the happiest place on earth, I was stunned to see the hordes of button-wearing guests who were doing the same.
While some of the free birthday ticket recipients may have already had theme park plans this year, I doubt if a majority of them would have had the motivation to take off work, pull the kids out of school, and show up on a Tuesday in March to catch a parade and take a spin on a teacup. The ticket promo is a brilliant recessionary marketing strategy that not only filled the park with the celebrants’ admission-paying family and friends, but also sold a whole lot of high-priced retail food and souvenirs, judging from the lines that were queued up at every store, restaurant, and turkey leg food cart.
After being bombarded by reports of obscene executive compensation and bonuses recently, it would be gratifying to see a press release from Disney announcing a big fat bonus for the person who championed the free birthday ticket promotion within a company that used to respond to the phrase “free ticket” in the same way that fictional wizards respond to the name “Voldemort.” (When I worked at Disney, I could comp a $400 hotel room easier than I could comp a $40 park ticket.)
Regardless of the way it was born, the Disney birthday freebie promotion demonstrates that recession can be the mother of invention for any company that is willing to embrace a new relationship with its customers, and respond to new challenges with fluid creativity. A few strategically placed freebies don't hurt these days either.