MCED Blog

MCED helps innovators fill in the gaps between their deep industry expertise and the strategic business skills critical to launching a scalable, sustainable venture. Maine's unique economic and geographic challenges demand more that a traditional business incubator. They demand a catalyst.

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Tips on applying for an MTI Grant. By Lee Cheever, MCED.
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Retro Marketing, Yes Please!

Maybe it’s because I’m of a certain age or maybe I was lulled by the allure of owning a Cuisinart 1 Quart Open Pourpan (yeah, that’s a thing I checked) but whatever the reason, I recently became a stamp collector for the Shaws Saver Stamp Promotion.

The promotion was simple: the more you spent at Shaws during the promotional period, the more stamps you earned. The more stamps you acquired, the more free pots and pans you were awarded. That was it. I think I should mention here that I didn’t actually need any pots and pans and there have been multiple threats of yard sales leveraged against me. Also, I am not a coupon cutter, I never call the 1-800 number on my receipt to give a brief survey (even if they offer me a discount on my next store visit), I opt out of giving my email at checkouts and I never, never ever, refer a friend in order to get a discount on anything.

So, I’ve been thinking about what my tipping point was in deciding to participate in the pots and pans promotion. My husband thinks it’s the retro nature of the promotion harkening back to the S&H Green Stamp days of my childhood. He may be right, I do have fond memories of my mother collecting the both the green and yellow stamps and imploring me with a “Don’t forget to get the stamps!” as I ran out the door. Once or twice a year we would bring the books, fat with stamps, to the S&H store in Bangor to redeem them for the merchandise that we’d looked up in the catalogue. We got some good stuff too; I think I even got a bike once. Fond memories for sure, but I think that the real reason I tipped toward participating versus ignoring had more to do with what the Shaws promotion wasn’t…deceptive.

I think the straightforwardness of it as opposed to the daily deluge of discrete and not-so-discrete digital marketing seemed somehow refreshing to me. Shaws partnered with Cuisinart, set up a few in-store displays, did some print advertising and then collect or don’t collect, no pressure, you decide mighty consumer. It felt more honest somehow, more human. On more than a few occasions I witnessed customers looking behind them in the lines and saying, “I don’t collect these stamps but do you want them?” That was cool; it was different. Shaws seemed nice and so did its customers.

I’m sure many in marketing would frown on the Shaws promotion idea because it seems old fashioned and wouldn’t generate strong analytical data (after all, shoppers weren’t required to furnish receipts or any personal information, heck, you didn’t even need to like their Facebook page) but I think they discovered a gem. As commerce becomes more and more impersonal and invasive I think old ideas like personal service, thank you notes, and telephone calls will have a significant impact on buying decisions. Now I think I’ll make a toasted cheese and some tomato soup…

-Susan Ruhlin

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