The PR of Prime & Build-a-Bear: When Promotions Fail

It’s been an epic week for train wreck voyeurs and internet trolls.

Last Thursday, popular retail chain Build-a-Bear ran a “Pay your Age” promotion to encourage shoppers to pay only their age (thus, a three-year-old would pay $3) to create a one-of-a-kind stuffed animal of their own at a significant discount. To say it was a disaster is an understatement. Shopping malls across the country were plagued by overwhelming lines with parents, many with cranky toddlers, waiting hours in line. Fire marshals had to shut down lines due to safety concerns. Hundreds of people were turned away sans a new furry friend and with horror stories shared liberally on social media. Local media in dozens of markets turned out to talk to frustrated line-waiters and document the chaos. The result was a tarnished reputation for Build-a-Bear following a promotion that was meant to reward and endear existing and prospective customers.

If you are one of the more than 100 million shoppers globally who pay an annual fee for an Amazon Prime membership, then you likely already know that Amazon Prime Day, the day where the online retailer offers discounts on products from TVs to vitamins, failed in similarly spectacular fashion. After seemingly limitless hype and promotion for Prime Day discounts, those who logged on at 3 p.m. Eastern (when Prime Day offers were scheduled to launch) were greeted by a crashing site and a stream of cute photos of the Dogs of Amazon. Within minutes, Twitter was set ablaze with snarky memes about the crash.

The takeaway: execution matters. We are often charged with generating original and imaginative methods to help clients launch an initiative, product or concept. Our team relishes the opportunity to unleash our most creative ideas and form them into a strategy that fits client objectives. Sometimes these concepts are cute or humorous or clever. Most importantly, they are realistic. We think through every possible scenario, plan for the worst and are ready to respond if the execution falters. We spend weeks, and sometimes months, thinking through the implementation. Fun promotions for the sake of doing something cool does not serve the brand, and in the recent cases of Amazon and Build-a-Bear, it’s the failure that can be remembered.