Free Medium Coffee

February 9, 2008 at 10:47 pm 2 comments

free medium coffee

What did the new Dunkin Donuts store owner do right? The sign says it all…”Free Medium Coffee”. Do you think he drove traffic to his new store? Lots. I had to look twice at the second line; “No Purchase Necessary.”

That’s different.

Free just feels different.

New businesses offer discounts, coupons and rebates all the time. They imply, “We’ll give you a good deal if you come check us out.” Free, on the other hand, says, “We’re willing to invest in a relationship with you and know we’ll need to earn your business.”

Now flip it. How obliged do you feel after hunting for the coupon, clipping it out, sorting it by category and then remembering to use it before it expires? You feel like they owe you the coffee, don’t you? At best coupons and other promotions offer a balanced exchange; at worst, buyers feel distrust about the process. How much pain have you felt due to coupon or rebate issues? One study suggested that 50% of all rebates never get turned in. OfficeMax received accolades for bidding farewell to rebates in 2006 and Best Buy followed last year on many products.

Now let’s look at the first three days since the sign went up:

Day #1 – On your first visit, you look around as you approach the counter with caution. Suspicious of a catch, you place your order, “I saw your sign and I’d like a free medium coffee.” When the person on the other side of the counter smiles and promptly pours your Dunkin Decaf, you wonder if the other shoe will drop. When you realize there’s no string attached, they just went from stranger to friend.

Day #2 – You know you’re getting a donut with the coffee. Why? Because you feel a strange sense of gratitude for a second cup of free coffee. I bet you never felt a sense of appreciation after using coupons? (By the way, after day #1, you told at least three friends about the free medium coffee because you like to give away free stuff too, even if it’s someone else’s).

Day #3“Dunkin Decaf, cream, no sugar Mr. Slatin?” says the lady in a pink and orange uniform. “Thanks for remembering Janice, let me also get a half dozen glazed and a half dozen with sprinkles, an egg, bacon and cheese croissant and a box of munchkins.”

What just happened?

The seller created value by giving you something without expecting anything in return. Did he have a previous relationship with you? No. But now he does. He changed the feeling you had about his product or service from neutral to positive. Warm fuzzies. Why are warm fuzzies important? Well despite popular belief – all decisions are based on emotion and justified by logic. Dunkin Donuts went through your mouth to get to your heart. What’s your “free medium coffee”?


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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Allen Taylor  |  February 9, 2008 at 11:34 pm

    I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you.

    Allen Taylor

  • 2. Kelly  |  February 28, 2008 at 1:08 pm

    Hi, Mark, I found you through Charlie Green’s site. Good stuff here!

    You’re absolutely right about that sense of relationship and obligation that comes from “free.” (It’s also one of the things a business blog can do for its author.)

    My Dunkin’ Donuts here in DE aren’t offering me any coffee free, so I can’t test the friendliness of somebody handing me a something-for-nothing, but if you’re really moving that quickly into first-name-basis I’d say the owner’s got some very fine hiring skills, too. (Or was that a bit of exaggeration based on the warm fuzzies you got?)

    Mark, an Experience comment here (I know it’s a very new blog…) I can’t seem to find a subscribe field (I’d prefer email but I don’t see any at all). I’ll bookmark you and check back in.




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