Refreshingly Cynical Holiday Campaign From Shopping In-Store Sucks

Written by Evan Schuman
November 28th, 2012

After having seen literally hundreds of cheery holiday news releases and images of snowangels, reindeer and good cheer to all, there was something deliciously refreshing about the tactics used this month by The E-tailer argued to shoppers in key cities that shopping among holiday decorations, Santa displays and colored ribbons is positively humbug.

Statements released in New York, Chicago, Dallas and Los Angeles said they were all “experiencing a trend in unfavorable weather, violent acts and pricey travel options” and specified “Pepper spray attacks, trampling, ruined stores and mass hysteria.” For New Yorkers, a statement reminded consumers that “last year, the city saw riots outside stores in SoHo during the early hours while a 4:00 a.m. stampede in Herald Square frayed tempers and teams had to be devoted to directing shoppers like rush-hour traffic. Every year scores of shoppers get caught out by the alternate parking rule, mistakenly thinking that it does not apply during the retail bonanza.”

It’s certainly fair game to tout the convenience of E-Commerce, but this is the first we’ve seen an E-tailer slam physical holiday shopping so directly. But emotional plays tend to quite effective. While a new California study found that shoppers often made much worse retail decisions when sad, shamelessly has been plugging a study that argues—with a straight face—”scientific research shows that oxytocin, a hormone that is directly related to love and happiness, spikes when people receive a coupon” and “data shows that coupons make consumers happier and more relaxed.”

The study’s approach certainly sounds scientific: “Effects of the coupon were evaluated through multiple measures—including the level of hormones in the blood, cardiac activity (using an electrocardiogram), respiration and perspiration (similar to a polygraph test), and mood relating to the receipt of coupons. The physiologic data was acquired one thousand times a second to compare participants’ responses to coupons to those who did not receive coupons.”

The conclusion: that people who are shopping like to get money and discounts and that all of those measures simply quantify human happiness. Are there large groups of retail marketers who, before this study, thought consumers hated getting discounts? Or that they didn’t care?

I’m reminded of a comment from a one-time marketing professor, who I studied under, describing a TV commercial that touted the use of the manufacturer’s detergent, in addition to regular detergent, getting clothes 20 percent cleaner. “Amazing,” she said. “Using twice as much soap cleans better. Who’d have thunk it?”


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