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September 18, 2006

Branding: Where’s My Free Prize?

Reef SandalsIn 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 Prize InsideFree 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.

VW ToolkitThe 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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Posted by William Lozito at September 18, 2006 6:39 PM
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1 Comment

Nice round-up of really smart "prizes."

I've always filed this away in my brain as "not treating the customer like a complete imbecile."

Few companies credit their market with having the intelligence and insight to find the little nice-to-have features they've provided. And, conversely, so many companies feel obligated to spoon-feed every last detail--killing the magic of discovery.

When companies allow the customers to make these sorts of discoveries for themselves, the customer feels special. Like they are in the know.

Thanks for reminding me that some companies get it.

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