Every few days I get an e-mail from a bookseller. Not just any bookseller, mind you. The biggest bricks-and-mortar bookseller of them all.
We’re talking more than 750 stores. Shelves upon shelves of literary treasures to browse. Inviting spaces in which to linger and loiter, scan dust jackets, sample music, even grab a cup of coffee and a scone.
And yet, after months of being peppered by these e-mails, not one has compelled me to visit the nearest store.
Because virtually every e-mail is dominated by a discount offer. I can’t recall the last time there was an announcement of an author’s reading, some other special in-store event, or even a snippet of information that inspired me around reading and learning.
Bang the Drum Incessantly
To give you a taste, here’s a sampling of 10 consecutive e-mails received recently:
8.11 This Week: Coupons, New Lower Textbook Prices, Pat Conroy…
8.6 10% Coupon Inside
8.4 This Week — Coupons, Richard Russo, Free eReader, Save up to 90% on…
7.30 Choose a CD for $8.99
7.29 This Week — Coupons, Save up to 90% on Used Textbooks…
7.23 20% Coupon Inside
7.21 This Week — Coupons, Summer Reading Picks, Daniel Silva…
7.17 Save 50% — Don’t Miss Out on Our Clearance Sale
7.14 This Week — Coupons, Harry Potter 7 in Paperback, 50% Off Select…
7.9 10% Coupon Inside
Looking for a Reason
What’s wrong with saving money on books? Nothing. But at least for this consumer, when a marketer beats the percentage-discount, dollars-off, here’s-a-coupon drum often enough — monotonously enough — they create dissonance and disaffection rather than resonance and motivation.
Granted, maybe that makes me an oddball in today’s marketplace, where boxes are often big, prices are so often pledged to be low, and brands hang their hat on shopping the competition so you don’t have to.
But marketing, in the end, is also about creating meaningful differentiation, not just about communicating price discounts and financial enticements.
Go through your own list of most valued brands to your life and business and there’s a good chance few, if any, are known as the price leader in their category.
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If I were this big book retailer — or any marketer feeling stuck on a price treadmill — I hope I’d take a look at the competitive landscape and marketplace dynamics and decide that discounting my way into the hearts and minds of buyers might not be the answer.
Instead, I hope I’d rack my brain to think of ways to connect with my target audience around content — value-adding information, interactions and experiences that build affinity and drive engagement.
In fact, for inspiration, I might start by going to the Business section of my local bookstore and pulling a work on content marketing.
Would welcome your take on discounting, coupons and other price-related incentives? Overdone? Unavoidable? Does it tend to compel you or repulse? Do you patronize brands primarily because of pricing or some other aspect of the value proposition?