Days into the fall semester, chaos ensued at the University of Missouri when someone hacked into a student’s email and sent a spam blast to the entire student body, triggering an onslaught of “reply all” messages. (Think: “Remove me from this list,” sent hundreds of times over.) The staff of Tiger Garden, the university’s student-run retail flower shop, decided to capitalize on the digital snafu by parodying it with a giggle-worthy promotion.
“Everyone with a University of Missouri email address got the spam message and 232 responses in their inbox. It was bouncing around the university email portal and everyone was joking about it,” said Erin Casey, retail sales manager of Tiger Garden. “I had the idea that we should at least post something about it on social media because everyone was experiencing the same thing. It was a way to connect with our customers.”
Casey used free software to create a graphic for the shop’s “Reply All Email Chain” promotion, offering a penny discount on any Tiger Garden transaction for every email that was sent throughout the student body because of the hack. Just after she posted the graphic to Facebook, the University of Missouri IT department shut down their email server, and the emails capped at 232. The 10 to 15 customers who walked into Tiger Garden on August 28th and mentioned the promotion received $2.32 off their purchases.
Reactionary promotions “create a sense of urgency” and tap into a common bond, Casey explained. “Our customers see that it is related to a shared experience that we all are having,” she said. “We’re not just trying to push something on them, this is something related to what’s happening in our community now.”
The foot traffic and Facebook engagement (57 likes and 14 shares) made the effort worthwhile in Casey’s opinion. She plans to keep her eyes peeled for future happenings in the Mizzou community she can turn into fun promotions.
Here are some of her tips for a successful promotion:
- Use graphics. Casey has noticed that Facebook posts with an image or video receive much more traffic than text-only messages. Can’t think of a compelling photo op to illustrate your post? Consider using free graphic software, such as Canva.
- Discount wisely. When Casey decided to jump on the Mizzou “Email Chain Fiasco,” she was wary of offering too great a deal because she couldn’t foresee just how many replies would be sent out. She settled on a penny discount for every email sent, which minimized the chance of the shop losing significant money should the email count rise into the thousands. Looking back, Casey said she could have offered more since the number peaked at just over 200, but she is glad she didn’t risk it.
- Pay attention. Strange, extraordinary occurrences happen all the time. Stay conscious of what is affecting your community, and latch onto common threads in order to develop reactionary promotions. Tying a discount into a particular event makes a bigger splash than simply holding a random $10 or 20% off sale.
Mackenzie Nichols is a contributing writer for the Society of American Florists.