Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Reflections on Vaseline's Free Kit Promo

I received an SMS message out of the blue the other day from my mobile phone provider Globe. The message read:

Globe Bidakard member: Congratulations! You are entitled to a FREE Vaseline Total Moisture Trial Kit (Lotion + discount coupons)! Just present this text and claim at any Watson's store from Oct 12 - Oct 31, 2007. [other text omitted]
I must admit I was a bit excited to read that message, because I've always been curious about how direct marketing could be achieved through SMS.

So that day, I made a point of heading to the nearest Watson's store during my lunch break, just to see what the promo mechanics were.

Claim Process

When I got to the store, I showed the SMS message on my phone to one of the cashiers, and asked if any purchase was necessary to claim the free kit.

She said no (whew!), then punched something into the cash register before pulling out a free kit from behind the counter. After the register spat out a little receipt, the cashier then asked me to write my name and signature on the back of the receipt.

She did not ask me for any form of ID to confirm that I had used my real name, nor did she check what I'd written on the back of the receipt. For all she knew, I could have just scribbled something completely unintelligible.

After I signed the slip of paper, she handed me the kit, then asked me to delete the SMS message from my phone. I deleted the message and told her as much. She did not bother to verify that it had indeed been erased.

And that was it! As easy as that, I got my kit.

The Kit

And it looked like this:

Kit contents: 25ml bottle of lotion (left) and a thin blue booklet that contains discount coupons to the following stores: Freeway, Ensembles, Bioessence, Wendy's, Ystilo Salon, Osim, GNC, Body and Sole, Matabungkay Beach Resort, and Ace Water Spa. There was also a P20.00 discount coupon for the future purchase of any Vaseline lotion.

What a Shame: Lost Opportunity to Collect Customer Data

While the kit itself was fine (I really had no expectations as to what its contents would be), I found myself disappointed that the claim process had been left so open-ended. Consequently:
  • Neither Globe, Watson's, nor Vaseline were able to collect any kind of meaningful data regarding the customers who had claimed the product.
  • At best, Watson's can only report the number of customers who claimed the kit, and indicate when and where they had been claimed.
  • None of them can consistently and reliably connect the Globe cellphone number to the person who actually claimed the kit.
Frankly, I was expecting that the cashier would, at a minimum, ask me for my name and cell phone number, because:
  • If I were Watson's or Vaseline, having these numbers would improve my ability to reach my prospective customers directly, and reduce my dependence on Globe.
  • If I were Globe, I would now know who among my subscribers are more likely to respond to similar promotions in the future, and I can therefore cut down on the number of messages I'd send out for the next text promo while achieving a higher response rate.
If any of the parties involved was concerned that customers would hesitate to provide their phone number just to claim a prize, they could have gotten around that problem by:
  • using a unique "coupon code" in each SMS
  • tracking which cellphone number received which "coupon code"
  • asking for the coupon code when customers claim the kit
The Watson's cashiers would, of course, need to write down or record the code somewhere when a customer claims a kit. Ideally, that data should be punched into the cash register the way they would have recorded a credit card number or a frequent shopper number during an actual purchase.

Those codes could then be collected on a daily basis together with the point-of-sale (POS) data, and Globe could then have obtained that data from Watson's and merged it with actual customer records to get a better sense of who responds to what kind of promo.

If unique coupon codes had been used, all the companies involved would also have a way of checking whether customers were fraudulently claiming more than one free kit.

Too Simplistic?

Obviously, I'm over-simplifying things a bit when I say all this; after all, it's no easy feat to get data out of POS systems, and it's even harder to negotiate data sharing of any kind between the companies that are involved.

I guess I just felt that it was a shame to go through all this trouble to prepare a kit, send out a call-to-action to so many anonymous customers, and still not use the opportunity to find out who actually responded... all this despite the fact that such knowledge can inform future direct marketing efforts.

Oh well. I guess I just have to wait a little while longer before I start seeing closed-loop, SMS-based direct marketing.


Laura said...

Good points! Maybe it was a trial run just to see if people would respond?

mdy said...

Hi Laura!

Yes, I agree... it's very likely a trial run, since it's the first such promotional text that I had received. 8-)

I guess I've been reading too many online and direct marketing articles so I was expecting just a little bit more. haha!

As always, thanks for visiting!

Anonymous said...


You have a very keen marketing sense :) Actually, I think that the blast done to your phone was done on a trial basis, to see if people would respond and actually claim the free kits. And besides, Globe has a ready Database so it's very likely that the Vaseline Peeps tapped that base. I think that's what the BIDA membership is all about, you sign up to be part of an SMS incentive programme-- in return you get mobile coupons, etc. I won't be surprised if this Vaseline incentive coupon programme would go mainstream in the next few weeks. For Pinoys, basta libre, okay na :)

You are right in pointing out that the database building opportunity was wasted. Perhaps their main objective for this campaign was just to give trial packs out, without really asking for their profile (say asking via sms their names, gender, age, etc before handing out the voucher/mobile coupon). But if I were them, I would have exhausted all means to get to know my customers better. I would even want them to opt in to a service so that I can regularly offer them products and make announcments, while at the same time retaining them by giving them their usual discounts.

I think a similar campaign like the POND'S 7DAYS(I think that was Text 7DAYS to 2966) did get the consumer's profiles first before handing the mobile coupons. That's a better execution, I think. :) But overall, as a marketer, I think it's still cheaper to market via targeted sms rather than do mainstream commercials, etc. :)

Just my two cents' worth. :)



mdy said...

Hi Ton!

Thanks for taking the time to share your insights.

I agree. It's very likely that the entire promo was just a trial.

It's also possible that different Watson branches followed different claim processes to compare customer reactions (kinda like having a control group vs. a test group). In other words, it's possible that my experience was not representative of the rest of the people who claimed a kit.

And yes, I agree also that a well-executed, sms-based, direct marketing activity is likely to be more cost-effective than above-the-line marketing.

In retrospect, I think I was expecting *more* because I'd been waiting for a while now to see when someone would do something like this locally. Haha!

Anyway, thanks again for visiting. It's always nice to 'meet' someone else who finds this kind of thing interesting.

cataclysmic said...

just let it be as long as you've got your free kit... that is what matters the most... leave the other problems to globe and its partners...

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