I used to do a big production for Halloween at our house, complete with fog machine, creepy music, hanging skeletons, and scary creatures. We would mix in figures and people in costumes to keep kids guessing who was real until we would jump and scare them. Groups of kids would hover out on the sidewalk and dare each other to come closer. My personal favorites were when we would scare the parents so badly they would run off and leave their kids to their fate. It was a lot of fun, but involved a ton of hard work, creativity, and energy.
Oddly, what it didn’t involve a lot of was candy. It turned out that kids had so much fun coming to our “haunted house” that they cared very little about what candy they got. Sometimes they’d run away laughing and screaming without a single new piece in their bag.
Kids liked us not because they got some (or any) candy, but because we had a fun, scary house. We were almost immune to that most elemental of blackmail rituals, Trick or Treat. In marketing parlance, we had a Halloween Experience that Met or Exceeded The Fear Baseline In Their Holiday Paradigm. Unfortunately, as kids grow up, they’re still looking for free candy from most places they visit.
That’s what Groupon, Foursquare, and Facebook deals are all about – free goodies for a Visiting or a Like. The idea is that enticing someone to try you once will make them a loyal customer, but in reality, it is a one time piece of blackmail. If they’re going to stick around as a customer, they’re going to do it because you provided a good overall experience, not because of a tasty piece of candy.
Yes, it’s harder to interact online than to just do a giveaway. Like our haunted house it takes a ton of hard work, creativity, and energy; however, the rewards are a lot greater, and you don’t need to dig yourself into a hole trying to cover all the candy you’ve promised to the neighborhood kids. Plus, the bucket of eyeballs you will get as a result will just be temporary… and pretty gross to keep on your desk.