Promotions are for People, Not for Profits

Valentines Day was last week. That night I was looking to take my bride out for a nice Valentines Day dinner. I decided to call a place that I had never been to make a reservation. I heard it was nice, so I thought, “Why not try something new?”

It turns out there was a really good reason not to try something new—at least not at this place. After I made my reservation I decided to check out the menu online. They had a special events menu listed just for Valentines Day. The problem was that the menu was extremely limited and prices were even higher than normal. Plus, the portion sizes were smaller!

I just don’t get it. Why did they have to jack up prices and serve me fewer choices? Didn't they want their restaurant to be “that place” for a couple on a special occasion? Needless to say, my wife and I did not end up going to that restaurant.

Here’s a story about what a promotion should be like—20 years ago American Express was running a particular membership rewards program. Every dollar you spent earned you a point, which could be put towards hotels, flights and other products…not unlike any rewards program today. I checked out all the items being offered and saw there was a company selling one basic sports item (you could tell that company was just trying to reduce inventory).

Then I was sparked with an idea. I saw AmEx’s program as an opportunity to promote my brand, where people could get a special Steiner Sports collectible for the points they earned.

It took me six months to get in touch with the right person at American Express, but eventually I got in touch with Ted Dargan. I asked him for a meeting and when we met, I explained to him how I was willing to give him my best item and make zero money on it because I wanted to run a promotion that would jump off the page.

The item was a pair of Muhammad Ali signed boxing gloves (Side note: today just so happens to be the 50th anniversary of when Ali (then Cassius Clay) beat Sonny Liston in their first meeting for the heavyweight championship). With the gloves, of course, the program was hugely successful. Aside from Saks, we were the only non-travel company to get in at the beginning of the rewards program and Steiner Sports has had a relationship with American Express ever since. Today, we connect AmEx card holders with all kinds of things that are true rewards, not just items we’re trying to get out of inventory.

Muhammad Ali Boxing Gloves

So, when you run a promotion, is it for people you are serving or the money in your pockets? Are you willing to WOW people or are you just going to try to make a few extra bucks? Always remember this when trying to run a successful campaign: promotions are for people, not for profits.


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  • I actually have a signed pair of those Mohammad Ali gloves that I purchased with my AMEX points, along with the Steiner COA, picture of Muhammad Ali signing gloves, and the original AMEX catalog. I’m not a sports memorabilia collector, just needed to use my points on something before they expired, so this is what I used them on. The gloves and other items have been sitting in a closet in the original bag. Hoping they will be worth something some day!

    Adele Coffman on

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