It may be an old story now, but it’s worth revisiting the Hoover ‘free flights’ promotion to give a reminder of how NOT to do an online promotion.
In 1992 (yes, it’s really 24 years ago and people STILL talk about it, it was that bad!), Hoover came up with what they thought was a solid gold promotion to boost sales. And on that element, they were right, but the phenomenal success of the campaign almost ended the company…
The concept of the promotion was to buy a Hoover for at least £100 in order to qualify for two free flights to Europe or America. Sounds like a dream for the consumer, right? And it was! Over 200,000 Hoovers were sold during the course of the promotion, which meant Hoover had to draft in temporary staff working seven day shifts to meet the demand.
So far, so great for publicity and the consumer. But what about poor old Hoover?
Their cheapest vacuum cleaner at the time retailed at £119.99. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that two flights to America are going to cost the company significantly more than that. Times that by 200,000 and you can start to see where it all went wrong.
Hoover honoured all the flights claimed, but it pretty much meant the demise of the company. The European arm was bought out for a song, after the company paid out £50m on flights, in return for only £30m in sales.
The lesson in this couldn’t-make-it-up tale is to never EVER give away something that is more than the purchase price. It all boils down to basic maths; something Hoover clearly didn’t think about.