Double-sided marketing strategy or story of a “Bag for Life”

Young Cashier (YC) in the supermarket: Do you want “Bag for Life”?
Me: No, thank you!
YC: Strange, it’s so convenient but very few customers are buying it.
Me: Oh, it’s very simple! Because…

Now, let’s see about this “because”. It was an actual dialog between me and a young trainee in one of the major supermarkets just couple of days ago. Later she told me that she wanted to get a career in marketing. And I decided to give her a short “lesson” on do’s and don’ts of the marketing strategies.

So, a “Bag for Life”, one of the more or less recent inventions by supermarkets for “a greener and environmentally friendly” business. If some of you don’t know about it, then it is simply a plastic carrier bag that you pay a small fee to buy, but if it gets old or torn then the shop would replace it for free and recycle the old one. It supports governmental policy, enhances popular “green” image, etc. But there are few strange things about it: almost all supermarkets use the same name for the bag and the campaign wasn’t successful in any of them.

First I thought that it was a simple “oops” by the marketing strategist. Anyone working in marketing knows that words should be taken very seriously in order not to create a negative impression with a potential client. And first thing to check is “associative psychological impact”, e.g. word or phrase should not create a subliminal association with something unpleasant. Usually first check-point should be an unpleasant word or phrase only one letter “away” from the sales pitch. Second thing to check is to check for dual meaning. In our case both are disastrous. “Bag for Life” pitch is only one letter away from a nasty “Beg for Life”, and taking into account closeness of “a” and “e”, it becomes the worst combination possible. Wow, only this one was enough to kill any campaign; even without discussing the second level of subliminal associations (I live this exercise to anyone who wants to check his or her “sales pitch” ability).

Supermarkets are known for really good sales strategies and for creating serious sales and marketing pitches. So why this time it didn’t work? Now comes, what I think, the main reason and what I call a double-sided marketing.

Shops are not interested in all this recycling stuff as it costs them more money than thousands of disposable bags. But consumer and government insist on sustainability and environmental friendliness. I believe a real marketing “guru” was called in to create a perfect double-sided system which is very “green and recyclable” and satisfies all the modern trends, but, at the same time, subconsciously, sends a message to a consumer not to use it. The elegant solution found by that person is really impressive. Well, at least this is my opinion about a “Bag for Life” campaign.

Mkrtich Laziev

P.S. I didn’t tell the second part to a trainee. Let’s younger people have a bit of a cleaner approach to the marketing strategies.




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3 Responses to “Double-sided marketing strategy or story of a “Bag for Life””

  1. » Double-sided marketing strategy or story of a “Bag for Life” said:

    Jun 15, 09 at 2:11 am

    […] Go here to read the rest: Double-sided marketing strategy or story of a “Bag for Life” […]

  2. GarykPatton said:

    Jun 16, 09 at 3:30 pm

    Hi. I like the way you write. Will you post some more articles?

  3. ExCo said:

    Jun 19, 09 at 4:20 am

    Thanks! I’ll try… time permitting…


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