Public relations, marketing and holiday sales

Bet you’re wondering how I am going to link the topics of public relations, marketing and holiday sales, Well, me too. But I did think about it during my five-mile run this morning.

So here goes.

My wife, Mary, and sister-in-law, Donna, ordered Christmas presents for me online from an outfit called The Territory Ahead. I’m not going to provide a link or phone number for reasons that should be evident in a few keystrokes. I knew they were ordering two shirts for me. I picked them out. They ordered the shirts; they both arrived and were under our tree days before Christmas Eve. I knew that. I still shake the boxes. So far so good. Our family basically orders presents this way. It reduces stress, conflict and trips to the Post Office after Christmas. And I like the clothes offered by The Territory Ahead. It has a different selection than what is available at most brick-and-mortar outlets in our area. Although I’m not sure that anyone stills leaves home anymore to shop.

Then on Christmas Eve our mail arrives. And there is a new catalog from The Territory Ahead. And on the front cover in type that even I can read without my reading glasses it boldly proclaims: “The Biggest Sale of the Year! The Winter Sale. Up to 65% off original catalog prices.” Go ahead. Take a look and order one of the shirts if you want. But if you’re in one of my classes Spring Semester, please remember that a lot of the grading really is subjective.

Anyway, my reaction to the biggest sale of the year: Say What? I’m getting two shirts that someone just a week or so ago paid full price for. Now both are substantially reduced. Where’s my blood pressure cuff?

Maybe this is good marketing. But is it good public relations? No, I don’t think so. My memory isn’t what it used to be, but I’ll never order anything from The Territory Ahead again until I’m convinced that the item is priced as part of the “really, really biggest sale of the year.” And I’ll never order another gift from that company again before Christmas. Like Bob Hope once said (and I’m sure this isn’t exactly accurate but you’ll get the point), one of the virtues of entertaining U.S. troops around the world during Christmas was that he could return and buy all his presents on sale.

So here’s the point. I equate marketing with sales. For those interested in this kind of work, it’s an honorable profession. But let the buyer beware (just like with advertising). I equate public relations with honest and accurate communication and with building and maintaining relationships and reputation.

What would happen to a publicly traded company that took a marketing approach to disclosing quarterly earnings? Suppose it put out a news release one week disclosing a small loss for the quarter. Then it put out a news release a week or so later with this headline: “Just kidding. Here are the real numbers. Biggest loss of the year!” I know. I’m a dinosaur with a laptop, but I still think that honestly and treating others fairly over the long run are virtues.

And what I’m talking about doesn’t just apply to retail outfits like The Territory Ahead. Even Apple and Steve Jobs made s similar mistake involving pricing with the introduction several months ago of the iPhone. The early adopters waited in line to buy an iPhone at a substantially higher price than others bought the phone for just a short time after. This was such a big issue that even students in my ethics class had read about it – and had a strong opinion, all negative regarding Apple. But Jobs eventually did the right thing, offering the original buyers a $100 Apple store credit. This came after a flurry of comments made its way through the blogosphere. I’m just a lonely voice with a laptop and two over-priced shirts. Don’t expect much action from The Territory Ahead.

Yeah, I know. I guess I could return the shirts, get a credit and try to buy them again at the now-lower price. But I’m blogging these days. I don’t have time for that.

And besides, I’m going to Pittsburgh today. I try every year at this time to visit a city where the NFL team is still in contention. Since I live in Northeast pittsburgh1b.jpgOhio, Pittsburgh is the only option.

Also, I’m going to visit my parents and brothers and their families. I might even wear one of my new shirts. That will give me something else to be cranky about, particularly if the traffic is bad or my brother runs out of Iron City beer.


6 responses to “Public relations, marketing and holiday sales

  1. Excellent post!

    I would say this is neither good marketing or PR. Good marketing would have that catalogue arrive at least one week after Christmas, when gift recipients had a chance to try the merchandise and fall in love with it.

    Then, instead of you being upset you might be inclined to buy additional shirts or try another product.

  2. cafelady,

    Thanks for your comment. I agree with you: “neither good marketing or PR.” I’m no expert on marketing. As I mentioned, I equate it with sales. But I believe I do know something about PR. And this is not good PR.


  3. Okay, at first your post concerned me because I was starting to think you were becoming like David Sedaris’ father—a man who finds (what he thinks is) a piece of an old cookie in his suitcase, only to later realize it’s a piece of an old leather hat, and eats it anyway. But now I realize that it is, if nothing less, extremely annoying to find the “new” Christmas stuff already over ½ priced.

    Unlike Mr. Jobs, the great, you won’t be receiving a rebate check in the mail, however. Though if you’re organizing a Territory Ahead boycott, then you know I’m on board.

    Unless I find something in that sale catalogue I could use.

  4. Rob…
    This one had me chuckling. And flashing back to Ethics. 🙂
    I’m a huge fan of the Pittsburgh portion of this post…Iron City and all! Hope you had a great time with the family. Go Stillers.

  5. I liked this post, too (Pittsburgh plugs included)! Especially because I often “have” to write sales headlines like the ones you described…

  6. Renee,

    Hi. If you’re writing sales ads and headlines — then that’s the reason they are so successful 🙂

    Let me know if you start working for either the Steelers or Iron City.


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