Want more customers, or more fans?

In my post yesterday on how music artists and fans belong to the same community, Spike adds this comment: "I guess the difference between the terms "customer" and "fan" are too much to overcome for some companies."

Then a few minutes ago, I saw via LifeHacker that Ben and Jerry's is giving away free Ice Cream Cones today.

Most companies have two ways of looking at such a promotion:

1 - We can't do this, because we'll probably lose money

2 - We have to do this, because we'll probably gain fans

The vast majority of companies will take Option #1. The vast majority of companies also aren't as successful as Ben and Jerry's.

There might be a connection.

UPDATE: Kevin adds in the comments, "Ultimately, the marketing blogosphere is begging executive leadership to choose faith over facts. I think customers are begging for this, too."

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posted by Mack Collier @ 9:10 AM,


At 9:37 AM, Anonymous lolly said...

We always get free vouchers for Starbuck in the Metro, London's free newpaper. Virtually every Londoner reads the Metro every day, however I wonder how many people claim their frapuccinos?

What about Ben and Jerry's? Do you think many people claim their free cones?

At 10:16 AM, Blogger Kevin Hillstrom said...

I've sat in around a thousand executive/leadership meetings during my career. These ideas are frequently tossed around --- here's how the discussion might happen.

Marketing Executive: Let's have a free ice cream day on April 17.

CEO: Great idea! How much would that cost us?

Finance Executive: If we advertise it, we'll probably have twice the volume we otherwise would have. We will lose 5% of our annual profit by giving away ice cream for just one day.

Operations Executive: And, we'll have to hire additional staff in our stores, and pay overtime, just to meet consumer demand. That will cost us.

Finance Executive: If we do this, we'll need to increase sales for the rest of the year by 5% to cover the profit we lose on just one day.

CEO: Does anybody believe we'll increase our sales by 5% for the rest of the year?

Marketing Executive: Yes!!

At least two other people in the room: No way.

CEO: Sounds too expensive to me. I'll take a pass on the idea. But keep the ideas coming!

The marketing executive is always at a competitive disadvantage when going up against numbers. You can precisely measure how much profit you lose by giving away ice cream. You can never predict the long-term payoff of a short-term "investment in the customer".

Given the choice between facts and faith, the executive is likely to fall back on facts.

Ultimately, the marketing blogosphere is begging executive leadership to choose faith over facts. I think customers are begging for this, too.

At 1:55 AM, Blogger gianandrea said...

we live in time when companies should look over the naked numbers. what it looks a loss of money today, may generate a lot more tomorrow. question is: are you brave enough?

At 7:36 AM, Anonymous rv said...

which communities are the best, if you want to market your site?

We've recently started a site called Momondo.com. It's a search tool that helps you find cheap flight tickets on the net.

In short, we take the costumer request and send it to more than 180 different internet sites, including all low cost carriers in Europe and many online travel agencies, thus able to create an overview of the cheapest flights.

How do you guys suggest we spread the word via the internet? Should we use blogs, mailing lists or how do you suppose we make it grow?

-Rasmus / momondo

At 7:37 AM, Anonymous rv said...


At 9:38 PM, Blogger Drew McLellan said...


Great post. A snapshot of the shift in marketing, I think. It is easy to count customers. It's much more difficult to measure loyalty.

It's really a question of how wide do you want to go, versus how deep. Most companies only have so much resource -- be it product, people, money, etc.

The old model (reach and frequency) was about casting the net as widely as you could. Use these new mass media tools to expand your area of influence.

But today, CMOs are beginning to recognize the power of deep. The real trick is knowing the blend of the two that will best serve your customers, employees and shareholders.

Going wide isn't enough any more.



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