September 18, 2006
Branding: Where’s My Free Prize?
In a recent blog post on Brand Autopsy, Flip-Flops, Mystery, and Marketing, John Moore talks about a new sandal by Reef which has, embedded in the sole of the sandal, a church key bottle opener.
This is a great concept since sandals and good times go together, and this sandal, named the “Fanning Sandle”, has become Reef’s best selling shoe. The kicker, of course, is that the company does not advertise the bottle opener. Seth Godin calls this type of unhyped add-on a “free prize” and it is a clever way to add subtle value to the brand.
Free prizes are things that customers want, but do not necessarily associate with the core values of a brand. In this case, Reef is a sportswear manufacturer: calling a flip flop the “brewskie” or the “party sandal” (a few ridiculous product naming examples) would anathema to the core values of this well-respected surfing brand. Choosing not to tout a selling point has precedence.
A recent article in The Mac Observer, Hidden Dimensions - Why Apple Has Not Advertised Mac OS X, gives a simple, elegant reason why Apple did not promote its "free prize inside": Apple has a very cool OS, but the average Mac buyer doesn't care about what's inside. They care about what it can do and how cool it looks. Windows people look under the hood. Apple people are into driving. Generally speaking, Apple builds its brand name, not its specs.
The Reef bottle opener is useful, I suppose, but it’s also more of a talking point than anything else. The erstwhile VW Beetle also came with a pretty famous tool kit that customers are still looking for decades after the original Beetle was scrapped. Still, VW never pushed its inclusion with the vehicle, preferring to focus on its durability and not its capacity to break down every so often - but people liked having the unique tool kit.
As John Moore notes in his blog post, the Chrysler Sebring has hot and cold cup holders. These do not sell the car, but they are great for word-of-mouth advertising.
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