Threshers is the emperor with no clothes

I’ve been reading (and even watching on TV) about the Threshers 40% off viral offer. And I’m distinctly unimpressed. Frankly I’m surprised that so many usually intelligent commentators have been taken in by this and I sincerely hope this doesn’t get used as a successful social media marketing case study.

Lots of things about it bug me and these are only the ones that I can remember quickly (so probably irritate me the most):

1) Price discount promotions are very old hat and are a crude way of simply buying market share. It smacks of creatives who have run out of ideas and inspiration and have no faith whatsoever in their brand.

2) What does it say about the brand? Initially it says to me that it is cheap, but then I think about it and it actually says that it normally rips me off so much that it can afford to knock 40% off everything. If you don’t believe me, check the Threshers price and then try your local Tesco. Even with the discount many supermarkets can beat Threshers.

3) It’s not such a great offer anyway as it’s only 7% as Threshers appears to have a permanent 3 for 2 offer.

4) Points 2 and 3 together means Thresher is dishonest, not the sort of store you’d want to go to.

5) Where is the loyalty? Even if I’m suckered into using the 40% offer where is the incentive to return or develop a long term relationship with the store.

6) It was a mistake or a lie. Thresher’s spokesperson said: “”The initial email was to our suppliers and we did say it could be sent to friends and family,” said a spokesman, Dirk Kind.

All in all I don’t see this as a brilliant piece of creative PR or marketing.

My question is am I missing something? Lots of bloggers who I respect appear to think this is good. Why? Answers in the comments please.

p.s. I’m not reproducing the voucher – find it yourself. smile_wink


About Stuart Bruce

International communications consultant and PR trainer specialising in online public affairs, digital corporate communications, online PR and social media; frequent national media commentator and conference speaker.
  • Tim Bailey

    I do not think you are missing much, apart from the (possible?) benefit of having your companies name on so many potential customers lips, all over the net, TV, etc. Though, as you point out, what does that buy you as a retailer in the long term.

  • http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/blogs/niallcook Niall Cook

    Well said. To cynics like me, it all smells just a little bit too fishy to be genuine.

  • http://www.pr-consultant.co.uk/blog/2006/12/threshers-voucher-secret-sale-exposed.html Stephen Newton

    'Ah but…' says someone who has reproduced the voucher alongside an ad for Tesco's wine club!

    This isn't public relations it's a sales promotion. Sales promotion may be cheapening, but it's hard to argue with SP that leaves store shelves empty and the bottom line bloated.

    Longer term it's harder to say, but people have short memories and I suspect they'll forget all the bad news stories (i.e. Threshers is so expensive they still don't beat the supermarkets). It also gives shoppers the feeling they're getting a discount they should not have been offered, that is to say that they're getting something that's worth more than they're paying. That feeling won't cheapen the brand.

  • http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/blogs/jamesbarbour/ James Barbour

    Glad someone else is talking sense about the voucher's real 7% value.

    I'm increasingly inclined to think cock-up rather than conspiracy on this one, though. I don't believe someone at Thresher thought for a moment "let's release a voucher into the social media maelstrom and see how viral it gets". So I'm entirely with you on the this-is-not-a-case-study point. But nor do I think it makes Thresher a bad, or dishonest, company – just a bit dim.

    Is it going to change consumer behaviour in the long term? I doubt it. People buy booze on a mixture of thre criterea: Price, quality and convenience. Promotions may increase sales a bit this week, but next week we'll all be off looking for the best deal again.

  • http://www.accmanpro.com Dennis Howlett

    How does this translate into 'dishonest' or a 'lie?'

    Threshers is entitled to sell at whatever price it thinks the market will bear. It provides a level of conveniece for everyone, not just those that drive out to a hypermarket. It doesn't have the muscle that Tesco has. Neither does it have the bone head management that eeks that last £0.001 out of its suppliers in the same way Tesco uses its muscle to do so. But of course consumers don't worry too much about that as they bargain hunt. Now do they?

    Threshers has an altogether different strategy that is community based and is proving successful.

    Being social isn't just about knocking out the cheapest price. That's a single dimension.

  • http://profile.typekey.com/stuartbrucepr/ Stuart Bruce – Wolfstar

    Dennis, the dishonest is about trying to appear to be something you are not and this sales promotion definitely gives me the impression of being something that it isn't.

    The lie is a separate comment and relates to the quote. If it was meant to be a viral campaign then the quote is a lie, although personally I'm with James on this and think it is far more likely to simply be a cock-up.

    I'm confused as to why you think Threshers is 'community based'. Do you mean that it tends to be on high streets in the suburbs? Because it certainly isn't 'community based' in terms of contributing to its local community. In my direct experience as a communiy activist I've found even the global mega-retailer Walmart-Asda to be far more interested in the community than your average local Threshers store (it trades under several brand names).

    Your final point is one that I was trying to make. Simply offering a crude discount isn't social.

  • http://publicsphere.typepad.com/mediations/ Philip Young

    Interesting. I made the 7pc comment on Neville Hobson's blog on Sunday! … but I still used the voucher on Thursday.

    I think it is more useful to view the exercise as a promotional effort than an attempt at public relations. As you say, Stuart, it actually underlines how expensive Threshers is – but I would also question the 'transaparency' of the exercise.

    Maybe I am naive but if you are trying to reward selected contacts with a special discount would you naturally think to limit the offer to just ten days, and would those them be a few days after the voucher was offered – in fact, about as long as it might take for an effective (pre-Christmas) viral to spread….?

  • http://www.rainierpr.co.uk/blog Stephen Waddington

    It's real enough – but doesn't include spirits unfortunatly. I used it last night to buy a case of wine in Ealing.

    It's a smart piece of of sales promotion – and as such can hardly be leveled as dishonest.

    So what if it's only marginally better value than three-for-two offers – its creating foot fall at the busiest time for booze purchasing.

    Long term its won't do the Thresher's brand any hard at all – it's hardly a premium brand such as Berry Brothers or Waitrose Wines.

    I don't think that Threshers envisaged how this story would go mainstream. It could of done a better job at training its spokespeople.

    I think Dennis meant Threshers are high-street based, rather than having huge sheds out of town.

  • http://www.artisanmc.co.uk rob baker

    I am inclined to think that they got lucky.

    I do not believe you can plan a viral campaign (and a fairly uninspiring one) and have the degree of penetration this one did.

    One point, from a PR perspective, that has not come up is how uncritical the media have been in all this. If it makes a news angle, who cares if its true? Why delve into the minuses as you do when you have a light hearted "isn't that amazing" story?

    Sometimes the media can be formula driven mush; critical intelligent thought is always going to be a minority pursuit

  • http://www.sixtysecondview.com David Brain

    I think I take a slightly more generous view on this than most of your commentators. I interviewed Hugh McLeod of Gaping Void Fame and Jason Korman of Stormhoek Winery the two behind this thing yesterday. See what they ahve to say: http://www.sixtysecondview.com

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