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!

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Ian Delaney

    My understanding is that Thresher has been offering 3 for 2 on wine since forever. Offering an additional 7% discount to internet fans seems unlikely to result in a Hoover/Starbucks type of scandal.

  2. neville

    I’m sure you’re right, Ian. I was thinking of what could happen if hundreds of thousands of people rush in to redeem the coupons and if Thresher just couldn’t deal with that. My thought was prompted by their spokesperson’s comments in media reporting.

    I went in to my local Thresher store today and bought 6 bottles of wine, two of which were Stormhoek wines. Redeemed my coupon. Instead of paying £42, I paid £25 and saved £17, Can’t complain about that!

  3. Ian Delaney

    No doubt it’s a cracking offer, Neville! The people who should be worried are Oddbins and Unwins, etc.

    Still, you’re right that if the UK digerati are as mobile as they might be, it could put unusual demands on their supply-chain. But again, I suspect that it being Xmas, they’re under unusual demand anyway.

  4. neville

    Everyone seems to be in the discount-pricing game, Ian. All the supermarkets have offers and, if some bloggers are to be believed, everyone ups their prices anyway before discounting (oh the cynicism!).

    If this has a very good outcome, I’d say Thresher will be quite pleased. Their name is all over the internet, and in much of the UK national press and broadcast media during the past few days.

    Unlikely to be a budget big enough to buy that kind of broad brand-awareness result.

  5. Andrew

    Perhaps the scale of the interest and rapid spread through the blogs – visitors to my post about the promo are massive – may have taken Threshers a little by surprise but the extra discount (on top of the buy 2 deal) is not that big. Getting people through the door this early in the pre-Christmas spending spree is a triumph and does take trade away from the competition.

    PS Unwins closed a year ago.

  6. Ian Delaney

    “unwins closed a year ago”

    I’m obviously on top of the game, then. ;)

    Yes – I would say great marketing promotion, even if it is partially by accident. But isn’t that the characteristic of a good viral?

  7. Rodrigo Dauster

    Surely, the metric of a good campaign is the long term upswing in sales it delivers.

    Price discount promotions are old fare. The fact that buying market share this way is common practice among FMCG companies is often used as blatant proof of brand managers lack of creativity and desperation. Newspapers, especially in London, especially Murdoch titles, love trying to buy market share as well.

    “Buy me, I am cheap” is hardly a great brand positioning statement — unless you want to be perceived as such. These campaigns train the customers to hunt for promotions.

    I don’t see anything in this campaign designed to attract the customer a second time to Threshers. There is no “loyalty” element. Of course, Threshers can be hoping that the coupon-wielding customer will have such a phenomenal shopping experience, be so awe-struck by the range of wines and quality of the service staff that they will become regulars… that’s clutching at straws.

    No. I think this is a bad campaign; evidence of lack of creativity and desperation.

    Something more 2.0 would bake-in a social marketing angle. For example that you could get 40% off on the wine that I (a friend) suggested… that they had some kind of counter where I could only make 10 such “invites” (make it feel exclusive)…. Yeah, I love it: Thresher would have a website where I (a registered user (would purchase be required)) could select wines from a list (maybe a limited range of sponsored wines) and, upon providing an email address, a unique pdf coupong would be created and mailed to my friend.

  8. Dan

    This is quite obviously an intended campaign – an extremely cheap one at that (save the actual discount). Normal discounts, as pointed out above, are around 33%, so it’s not that generous. Tesco etc are all offering 25% and more. Now that BBC are running it, someone at Threshers marketing must be very pleased!

  9. Scott

    Well its either:

    The campaign hasn’t performed as well as other viral campaigns, and not to the level Thresher intended. Possibly due to the source location for the campaign….does you average wine drinker read/write blogs??? So, bring in Plan B and make it look like a mistake and the world and its dog will come rushing in, and at the very least Threshers have had some huge TV/press exposure.


    It was always going to be Plan B, viral marketing works, but its audience is limited and in most cases young, which isn’t exactly the target market for alcohol consumption. This means you need a secondary action to widen its publication, eg “Oops look what we did”

    Either way Threshers have had an extremely cheap campaign in terms of cost and most likely it will not cost them anymore than they were already giving away. The existing 3 for 2 offer had some drawbacks, it was for 3 of the same bottle. Which at present buying time of year isn’t the best……… bottle for Mum, one for Dad and one for me????? I think not

    With the 40% offer they are hoping to secure all of our alcohol purchase rather than just the bulk

    Well done Threshers………………………

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