L.L. Bean wins the #marchto800 in the Purple Goldfish Project

by Stan Phelps

in purple goldfish project

Recency and the power of a guarantee

One of the foundations of marketing lagniappe is the idea of leveraging recency.  They say (whoever they are) that people tend to remember the first thing and the last thing they see.  A ton of attention is paid to the importance of a first impression (primacy), but little is made of the last moment (recency).  The concept of doing a little unexpected extra at the time of purchase is a recency strategy.  Translation: You give the customer something to talk, tweet, blog, Yelp or Facebook about right before the leave, hang up or logout.

So why am I talking about ‘recency’?

It’s because L.L. Bean was #800 in the March to 800 contest.  They made the Top 5 of seven of the eight lists from the selection committee.  Was it because they were the last entrant in the field of 64?  Although they may have benefitted from being the most recent entrant, I believe their nomination was directly tied to the strength of their purple goldfish.  Congrats to Barry Dalton for winning the iPod and to L.L. Bean for winning the bragging rights by a 2 to 1 margin over second place.

Here’s the tale of the tape:

voting results

* Universal Studios received the remaining 16%

and the L.L. Bean winning entry from Barry:

ll bean guarantee

My friends recently decided to take up hiking the Appalachian Trail as a hobby. I could probably think of about 3 dozen more leisurely activities to pick up as a “hobby”. But awesome for them!

So, about sixty or seventy miles into their latest trek last week, they were strolling within a few miles of my house and asked to camp for the night for a hot meal and a shower. So, after devouring half the food in the house and getting cleaned up, we all sat down with a bottle of wine to hear some stories.

My friend proceeds to tell me that at a campground, he and a fellow hiker got their Bean Boot laces crossed, whereby the stranger ended up accidentally putting my friends boots into his backpack and hauling off down the trail. My friend, upon later putting his fellow long-departed sojorner’s size 14 boots on his size 9 foot realized the mix up.

He called L.L. Bean from the trail (in our connected world were noplace is “out of range”) and told them of his dilemma. The Bean rep told him that he would FedEx a new pair of boots in the right size to my address for next day delivery. In return, they asked him to send the old boots back to them when he got back home.

Oh, did I mention that they treated this like an exchange? Like….he didn’t have to buy the new pair of boots. And get this. The boots they were sending him cost thirty bucks less than the old ratty size 14s he had in his sack. So, Bean sent him a gift card for the thirty bucks! I couldn’t make this stuff up!

We finish the wine (and one or two more bottles, I think), went to sleep. And sure enough, around ten am the next day, the FedEx guy delivered a brand new pair of warm, dry Bean Boots to my door.

So, do you think my friend will buy his next ten pair of boots, and all his other outdoor, Daniel Boone, trail-blazing gear from L.L. Bean for the rest of his hiking days?”

Special Thanks: The Finalists – Lou Imbriano, Ryan Macaulay and Rick Liebling.  The Selection Sunday committee – Jack Campisi, Denise Barlow, Barry Dalton, Kelly Ketelboeter, Ty Sullivan, Ted Coine, James Sorenson and Keith Green.  Great comments by – Jim Joseph, Tim Sanchez, Gail Billingsley, Ric Dragon, Kelly Lieberman, Mark Burgess, Sam Parrotto, Sharlene Sones and Ted Curtin.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra for good measure) – Sometimes ‘NO’ isn’t a bad thing.  In fact when it comes to free shipping and guarantees, how do you turn a negative into a positive?  How about no minimum orders for free shipping and no end date on guarantees.  Throw in ‘no conditions’ for lagniappe. Kudos to L.L. Bean:

Lagniappe defined: A marketing lagniappe,  i.e. purple goldfish, is any time a business goes above and beyond to provide a ‘little something extra’.  It’s that unexpected surprise that’s thrown in for good measure.

How do you stand out in the sea of sameness? How do you win repeat customers and influence word of mouth? What’s Your Purple Goldfish?

Download the FREE eBook here

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Connie Cermak May 14, 2011 at 11:46 am

This feel good customer service story is a very good example of how marketing has become much more about the “individual” and less about the “consumer.” I look forward to spending my hard earned money at L.L. Bean for years to come. Thanks for sharing this story on twitter. I hope it goes viral.

2 Stan Phelps May 14, 2011 at 2:10 pm

Thanks Connie. Your lips to God’s ear on the viral wish.
In a small way I hope it helps to change a marketing paradigm. I believe marketing should start with the customer first, prospect second.

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