Could the 40% offer overload Thresher?

It started as a Stormhoek Wine blog post, was picked up by bloggers, expanded into chat forums and, one week on, has now made BBC TV news.

The 40 percent discount offer from the Thresher wine and spirits retailer could qualify as a viral marketing or word-of-mouth success story by almost any measure.

The story has certainly garnered a great deal of attention as my web server stats have clearly indicated. The post I wrote last week, on the 24th, has consistently been the most popular place here for visitors every day this week, by a huge factor.

While Thresher might be pleased at all the attention in such a short space of time, clearly they’re also concerned by the scale of the attention, with implications for how much it will cost Thresher to honour the offer.

From the BBC News report:

[...] “It was never intended to get this big,” a company spokesperson said. The company admits it is slightly concerned about the popularity of the offer. “We are waiting with bated breath… Early next week, we should get the figures for what level of business we have seen this week and over the weekend,” the spokesperson added. “This is a better offer than normal and it could end up hitting our profit margins.”

While I do hope that Thresher are able to hit that perfect combination of satisfying their customers and making a nice profit, the reaction to the offer does bring to my mind the Hoover free flights fiasco in the early 1990s:

When Hoover’s free flights promotion was launched to a wide-eyed British public in August 1992, it seemed too good to be true. Over the next 21 months, many Hoover customers discovered it was. Originally intended to shift a backlog of vacuum cleaners and washing machines gathering dust in Hoover’s warehouse, it ended up costing the company £48m and dragging their name through the dirt.

The promotion was simply too generous. Spend just £100 on any Hoover product and two free return flights – initially to Europe – could be yours – though only if you were determined enough to make it through the maze of small print and Hoover’s travel agents’ attempts to sell you profitable extras designed to offset the cost of the promotion.

While there’s no similarity in the details – Thresher’s offer has minimal terms and conditions (which may be where potential problems lie) – the similarity is about the offer itself.

Is it too generous? Are they ready for potentially at least 800,000 people in the UK to march into their local Thresher outlet during the next ten days and expect the offer to be honoured?

Watching developments. Meanwhile, off to my local Thresher tomorrow morning!

About Neville Hobson

Entrepreneurial business communicator with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Co-host of the weekly business podcast For Immediate Release: The Hobson and Holtz Report. Also an occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Follow me on Twitter and Google+.