Monday, October 28, 2013

FREE... may be the most appealing word in advertising!

St. Edmond's Academy Students in front of their mobile billboard.

An economic motivation is where price is the main motivating factor. And “FREE”… to the ears of a consumer is one of the most beautiful sounding words they can hear. Although, the word "free" may be a double-edged sword for retailers. As an experienced media provider, I am often asked to come up with a “hook” for an ad and I always turn to what I believe is one of the best emotional motivators available, and that is to give something away for free. The word FREE typically catches our attention. Moreover, when used the correct way, almost always helps the retailer increase their bottom line.

If using the word FREE in an advertisement automatically guarantees sales and profits, everyone would be giving away FREE products and services. Free needs to be used with caution. And remember, there is an old rule in marketing, “Never give away something you sell, unless you have a reliable plan to make a profit doing it.”

You could learn that old rule the hard way when your advertisement backfires and becomes a recipe for regret. The best advice to ensure success of your “free” giveaway is to tie it to some kind of commitment to your product or service. The last thing you want is a flash mob that quickly raids your retail establishment, grabs whatever free items available, and turns around never to be heard from again. Not only did you not make any profit in that case, you probably lost future sales as well, all because you did not have a well thought out marketing plan.

So how do you make a profit giving away things for free? Number one; make sure the giveaway will induce a sale of one of your products and or services. For example: Free is a powerful tool when used properly. As with a mobile billboard promotion we recently created for the Greene Turtle Sports Bar & Grill in Long Island NY, the word free is combined (and in my humble opinion) with another beautiful sounding word… Beer. The objective of the restaurant is to build a larger lunch crowd. A Free Draft Beer is a relatively inexpensive promotion for a restaurant when attached to the purchase of a main entrĂ©e. The hook will certainly motivate a receptive local audience to stop by the Greene Turtle for lunch. It's the proverbial "win win." The responding customers love receiving a free beer, appreciate the savings and the restaurant gets a lot of new business they may otherwise have missed out on.

Another recent entry into the world of “Free” is a mobile billboard campaign we are currently running for the St. Edmond’s Academy in Wilmington DE. (Photo shown above.) They've gone one-step further by offering "Free Tuition." Actually, the fine print is 6 months free tuition. Although, the perceived value is extremely high for a private school’s tuition, they are offering it as an incentive to enroll students for at least a full year. The offer of free tuition is from January to June and it's being marketed to public schools in their local area within a radius of about 20 miles from their academy. For the next few weeks, the mobile billboard will get exposure near the targeted public schools where parents are dropping-off and picking-up their kids. The billboard will also reach out to "parents" who may be found at local supermarkets and shopping malls.

With the huge clutter of different products and services available to consumers an understanding of how people are motivated to buy is essential to effective marketing strategies. Motivation works as a complex process and a tag-line of Free often works well. If you represent a product, brand or service that may benefit from a mobile billboard campaign with a “free something” hook, let us know and we will be happy to create an effective mobile billboard advertisement for you. By the way, our design services at are... *FREE!