Last Thursday on Thanksgiving, after my family said grace and gave thanks for all being together, the conversation shifted to a more important topic: what everyone wants for Christmas.
I am one of five semi-preppy 20-something siblings, and all of us receive marketing emails from J. Crew. Santa receives these emails too, and with frequent offers of 20 percent off of orders over $150 and free shipping, the chances are very high that this Christmas morning we each open a box with a fuzzy new J.Crew sweater in our favorite color.
But, after dropping the requisite hints about how cute we all think the new cable knit v-necks with the ruffled detailing are, we began discussing how exactly we all know about that one cute sweater: J. Crew’s marketing.
In the past, we have all agreed that J.Crew’s marketing efforts have been superb. The company is religious about sending a glossy catalog to our residence each month. Its marketing emails are timely, and keep us informed of its sales, deals, and new merchandise. But its emails are pretty much always the same bargain – 20 percent off and/or free shipping, mostly on orders over $150. And that’s where the complaints began. The “deal” emails usually come in the same format – white lettering on a black background touting those same, predictable sales.
We started talking about marketing and the value of a brand switching up its techniques to keep things interesting for their consumers. We love J. Crew – we already want what it sells. It does a great job of taking its tried and true concept and tweaking it just a little bit each season in order to keep things fresh. That may be the reason we like its clothes, but it’s the reason we don’t like its marketing. We want J. Crew to surprise us, because we already know it can surprise us with little bows and sparkles on otherwise basic tee-shirts and headbands.
This leads me to our biggest complaint about J. Crew’s recent marketing – its social media campaign. We all received the same email recently: J. Crew told us that if we became a fan of the J. Crew Facebook page, it would give us a special exclusive deal. “Ooooh” we thought, “maybe it’s a free tote bag or keychain! Maybe it’s 50 percent off!” But when each of us signed up as a Facebook fan and saw the deal, we were disappointed. It was the usual twenty percent off.
Wow, never seen that before, J. Crew. Pretty exciting. You enticed us, your already devoted consumers, to be your Facebook fans, published that information on all of our friends newsfeeds, and will now flood our homepages with product and company updates. And all we get is a measly twenty percent off? Thanks a lot, really. Now, instead of making us happy, you’ve irritated us. You haven’t irritated us enough to stop buying your products, but maybe you’ve irritated us enough to de-fan you on Facebook, or worse, to unsubscribe from your marketing emails.
The moral of this story is that when your consumers are doing you a favor, you better reward them properly. Keep them interested, give them something unexpected to show them how valuable they are. But it has to be genuine – it can’t be the same old ploy. If J. Crew really had given us that tote bag or keychain, its dedicated consumers would have felt special and appreciated. We would have forwarded the offer to all of our friends, and the campaign would have generated hundreds of thousands more Facebook fans. Instead we feel annoyed and bored. J. Crew is doing all the right things as far as keeping its consumers informed with email, social media, and direct print marketing, but it needs to work a little harder to keep things its marketing as exciting as its knits and tees.