On July 12, Build-a-Bear held an event called, “Pay Your Age Day”. Parents everywhere went into a frenzy and arrived hours early to wait in line to get their children a bear/stuffed friend for a few dollars. But what was originally a brilliant marketing promotional idea quickly turned into a PR crisis. That same day, only a few hours after the stores had opened, they had to start turning people away and shutting down the lines due to safety issues. Parents were mad. And we mean really mad. Here are some of the things they had to say about Build-a-Bear’s event online:

“PAY YOUR AGE’ turned out to be a joke.. turned up to what was a queue to the end of the shopping centre door (2hr wait apparently). Staff advised people to come back around 3.30.. came back and the shops closed with a sign. Lol. Nice one Build A Bear 👍🏼 #buildabear”

“@buildabear not being able to supply the demand on pay-your-age day is bad. making kids have to attend and being turned away at the door is disgusting. #promofail #PayYourAge #buildabear #angryparent”

What could they have done better? Could they have prevented this? The owner apologized the next day on the Today show, saying they had no way to anticipate the huge response they received for this sale. She mentioned they had done large promotions before and had prepped for crowds, but not of this size. The same day of this sale, Build-a-Bear released a statement apologizing to those who waited and got turned away. They have also offered $15 vouchers to all of those who were affected by this that are valid until the end of August. Here we see that the issue was addressed immediately with apologies all around. They also took steps to retain and soothe upset customers by offering the voucher. On their website, they made this statement:

“It is our sincere desire for all of our Guests to enjoy the best Build-A-Bear experience possible. As such, our goal with the voucher extension is to enable us to better flow traffic to the stores over the next several weeks to avoid long lines and wait times as much as possible,”

In our opinion, they took the necessary steps for a PR crisis by addressing the issue head-on and taking responsibility for their actions. But could they have done anything different to make this promotion run smoothly in the first place? We had a couple of ideas that could have saved them the stress of this marketing crisis. They could have extended the amount of time the promotion was running. This could have helped them to have a more spread out attendance, allowing them to serve more customers. They also could have segmented their audience into separate days on a first come first serve online registration basis. For example, the first 500 registrations would get an email to come the first day, the next 500 on the next day, and they could have cut it off once they reached a certain number. This would have been a more controlled way to run the promotion.

As you can see, it’s extremely important to have an experienced team to help you plan effective marketing promotional events as well as a team who’s experienced in crisis management. At Duo Marketing Group, we specialize in these aspects of marketing. You can trust us to take care of you and your business.