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What Good Are Gimmicks

The cobwebs of Halloween have not yet been fully swept away, yet boughs of holly are already decking the halls of many retailers.  Normally I would complain about this because I love Thanksgiving so much, but the rushing of Christmas provides me with a blog post topic.  So, I will keep it all bottled up until the Airing of Grievances comes around.  For the moment, I will tell you this little story: A friend of mine recently said to me, "I was suckered into buying a something this week purely based on marketing!"

I was intrigued.

The Gimmick

Strictly speaking, it wasn't even the advertising that suckered her into it—it was the packaging.  (Everything is marketing!)  Let me explain.  As Christmas is right around the corner(s), Coca-Cola is reformulating their successful campaigns of the past, only this time in miniature.  You can now buy "mini cans" of coke that hold only 7.5 oz for (almost) as much money as the full-sized 12 oz cans.  Sounds like a tough sell, doesn't it?  Enters the gimmick.

These wee-sized cans of soft drink come in a box that is made to look like a Christmas Coke delivery truck.  Driving this "delivery truck" is a plush Coca-Cola polar bear ornament.  So for the price of the Coke you were going to buy anyway, you can also get a novelty box and a stuffed animal/ornament for your Coke-loving kid.  Not a bad deal!

The Argument

"A gimmick like that will never sustain long term purchasing" so the argument goes.  And, of course, that is true to an extent.  At some point, the novelty of the box will fade.  The tree will topple from all of the polar bear ornaments.  Christmas will actually come and even go.  The gimmick alone cannot sustain the purchasing pattern needed for the long term success of a product.  The only problem with that argument is that gimmicks (rightly used) are never aimed and longevity; they are aimed an introduction.


There can be some great products out there that the masses would never try were it not for gimmicks.  We are creatures of habit who need something to catch our attention, spark our interest and incentivize our actions.  That is the aim of gimmicks, and gimmicks are very good at hitting their mark.  I've always hear that "whatever you do to get people in the door is what you have to do to keep them there."  I just don't think that is true.  Sometimes a good product needs a gimmicky introduction in order to show how well it can meet the consumer's need.


Meeting the consumer's need is the key to longevity, so it must not be ignored for the sake of a gimmick.  Let's look at our above example.  If my friend begins to purchase these mini cans on a regular basis, it will likely not be for the gimmick.  If she purchases them on the regular, it will be (or at least likely be) because they meet some need that she had (maybe didn't even know she had) before hand.

If you are a person who doesn't finish an entire can of Coke or feels guilty for finishing an entire can or wishes she hadn't finished an entire can ... if you want to cull back your Coke consumption without eliminating it completely, these mini cans (even at full price) are perfect!  If a product meets a need it is self-sustaining; it needs no reoccurring gimmick.

Team Work

Great products will lend themselves to longevity, but sometimes those great products need good old fashion gimmicks to introduce them to the market place.  A gimmick might come in the form of advertising, special offers or even something as simple as packaging.  Whatever it is, it can make a great teammate; just don't forget the other players.