Creative marketing or faux pas?

Aug. 29, 2013

I came across two interesting marketing pieces in the last week that have sparked some debate. Are they creative or tactless and awkward? The first was sent through the PR newswire service, which I peruse to find all the news relevant to the vending industry. On that day, I saw an offer for a free vending machine. I immediately jumped to the conclusion it was a blue sky vending scam, but read it anyway. To my surprise, it wasn’t. Instead, it was a New York vending operation offering its services to local companies. That is nothing new – but the way the offer was written was. Phrases like “"Many business owners are unaware how easy the process of vending machine acquisition has become; you no longer need to buy a machine up front, or even make monthly payments…” and “…we'll bring a free vending machine to your workplace—from there, we'll wirelessly monitor the usage and supply the machine with your employees' favorite healthy snacks…”

First, are there really locations out there who don’t know that vending machines are always free to them (sometimes even revenue generating if a commission is negotiated)? I find it doubtful.  Then I asked, is this a new company? Does it lack the experience to know what locations think? The company is a dedicated “healthy” vending company, although not a turnkey, and there is no “year founded” noted on its Website, so it certainly could be. Much later, I found myself wondering if this could be considered creative marketing.  Hear me out. The words “free vending machine” drove me to read the piece, and they might drive others. I saw the release was picked up by Yahoo Finance and an online Business Journal. Either way, this marketing piece took some cash. Distribution on PR Newswire can run anywhere from $130 to $500.

Veteran company also proposes savings

I wouldn’t have even considered that it was a clever marketing piece, except that I came across similar information from a long standing vending company – a Canteen franchise in California. The operation was stating things like, “…professionals file all relevant paperwork, handle inspections, and generally make your vending installation painless to you…” and “The State of California's reporting, taxation, and compliance requirements for your vending machines, office coffee services, and food preparation kitchens can lead to liabilities and pitfalls you didn't even know…”

Because that vending company started in 1967, I’m pretty sure they know how the vending industry works, but they are still proposing that they really offer a solution to locations above and beyond merely offering snack and foodservice.

I like this last idea, that vending (and micro markets and OCS) goes far beyond simply offering refreshments to end users. It really is a great service for a location in multiple ways and operators should always play up all the advantages when selling their services. Is the “free vending machine and all that goes with it” type of marketing effective? This juror is still out on that, but I’m behind any marketing that gets locations talking about the vending industry with more than a commission percentage on their minds. What’s your verdict?