One of my great passions in life is the game of Rugby League, and in particular following my team Leeds Rhinos. Last year Leeds Rhinos won the 'Treble' - finishing top of the Super League and also winning the Championship and the Rugby League Challenge Cup. In other words, they were undoubtedly the best Rugby League team in Britain.
This season, for a variety of reasons, things have gone wrong, and the team are currently bottom of the league table. But despite this, as a member of the Club I have remained very loyal, and yesterday I received the following email from them:
"Dear Darren. We've noticed you have attended every single one of our home games at Headingley Carnegie to date this season and we'd like to say thank you! Despite the current climate of the season, we hope you are enjoying the benefits on offer with your Season Membership and we'd like to extend our heartfelt thanks for your continued support for the team and the club this season. As a small gesture of our appreciation, we're offering you a discount on your match day programme for this Friday's game against Salford Red Devils at Headingley Carnegie. Take advantage of 50p off your programme and pay just £2.50."
I'm sorry to say it, but this is a terrible marketing faux pas. The email (which was also sent to other supporters) has been met with sarcasm and derision on social media. It's turning into a PR disaster - and there's no wonder. If you are going to 'reward' your most loyal customers, then offering a fifty pence discount (off a product that they might not want to buy anyway) just comes across as a slap in the face.
Many of us loyal supporters spend hundreds of pounds each year on our season tickets, plus a lot more money on tickets and travel to away games. Giving a fifty pence discount off the price of a match programme is the marketing equivalent of Marie Antoinette saying "let them eat cake."
If you want to reward your most loyal customers (especially in hard times) then you need to either make a 'big gesture' - or just don't bother at all.
What should they have done instead? If you can't afford to give a big reward to all of your loyal customers, then it is far better to create a free prize draw to win one big prize, rather than throwing a few 'crumbs' to everybody. (Incidentally, that's the psychology behind why the National Lottery has a really big jackpot prize).
A few ideas could have included entry into a prize draw to have lunch with the players at a training session. Or entry into a raffle to win a season ticket for next season. Or a prize draw to win a VIP trip to the next away game, travelling on the team coach. I can think of lots of other exciting ideas that the Club could have come up with, at little cost to themselves.
But no. They decided to offer a fifty pence discount off something that their customers might not even want to buy! It's a terrible customer service error, and I hope they will learn from it.
BUSINESS LEARNING POINT: If you want to give a reward to your most loyal customers then it needs to be a 'big gesture'. If you can't afford to give a big gesture to every customer, then create a prize draw for something big.