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Promotional Marketing- get it right!

The offer to consumers was simply, bring along an old rechargeable electric toothbrush and the lovely people on the Colgate promotional stand, at either Waterloo or Victoria station, would exchange it for a brand new Colgate ProClinical  A1500, usually costing £169.99!

My understanding is that they had a total of 1500 new Toothbrushes to give away over 5 days - so that's 750 at each station, or 150 a day.

However this is where things went awry. I only became aware of the offer because my colleague in the office was talking about it, and my colleague had only become aware of it because of the weekly email (distributed to over 4 million people) from 

So the offer was going viral, its reach had probably already gone way over Colgate and their marketing agencies expectations.

They must have been aware that the offer had gone viral like this - or maybe they had their heads buried in sand in the lead up to the campaign?

It seems they must have, as they certainly did not carry out any form of Promotional Risk Management, something PIMS-SCA could have helped them out with.

As it turned out thousands of people ended up queuing at Waterloo station alone, trying to get their hands on a shiny new electric toothbrush.

Within the early stages of rush hour, the promotional team had already been swamped and the 150 toothbrushes were all gone. The promotional staff then had to try and cope with the thousands of other people that turned up expecting a free toothbrush.

It doesn't take much work to find out that Waterloo station alone deals with an average 300,000 passengers a day. So if only 0.5% of these people had heard about the offer and made the effort to bring along their old electric toothbrush to swap on day one - that's still 10 times the quantity they had available to give away. 

This is a classic example of a brands promotion becoming a victim of its own success and it goes to show that if a brand puts out any kind offer where consumers can make a profit (I bet some of those toothbrushes would have ended up on eBay), things are likely to go wrong.

PIMS-SCA have over 26 years of experience in managing promotional risk management and helping big brands to avert promotional disasters. We could have assessed these risks before the campaign launch and on Colgate's behalf securing its reputation and saving the brand money.