Thinking Inside the Box to Promote Customer Loyalty around Christmas


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One of the 12 types of Purple Goldfish is In the Bag / Out of the Box. Smart companies realize there is an opportunity to leverage surprise and delight by delivering a little something extra. A sign of caring that gets thrown in for good measure.

My friend Sal Vilardo shared a fun PG story yesterday:

Hey Stan,

honestSo, we did the whole trial order from The Honest Company (@honest) and completely forgot that if you don’t cancel, they will ship the next month too. We kept moving out the shipment and forgot about it one month until a soft charge appeared on our card. Jess called to cancel the shipment, but it couldn’t be stopped. The customer service agent said they would send a prepaid return bag and would have FedEx come pick it up. We wouldn’t be charged a restocking fee and would be refunded the full amount.
Long story short, the box showed up today and had a little something extra in it. A Frasier Fir and a book for the kiddos.
little woodsman
They sent us a tree!!! Who sends a tree with their diapers and wipes!? The company is all about environmental stewardship and we got a tree to plant with the kiddos…Needless to say, we are now setting up a monthly order for our youngest. They won us over! We went from wanting to stop the shipment to setting up a second order.
Oh, the power of Lagniappe!
Thought you would enjoy,

Human Brand What a tremendous story! It speaks volumes about Jessica Alba’s The Honest Company. The company scores high on the two factors that drive our emotional reactions and ultimate loyalty to a brand. According to Chris Malone and Susan T. Fiske in The Human Brand

“Research tells us that, thanks to the struggle for survival among our early ancestors, we all rely on a primal, unconscious ability to quickly size up others according to two specific categories of perception: warmth and competence.” 

Honest was responsive to the issue (competence) and thoughtful with the little extra (warmth).

Malone and Fiske spent three years studying more than 45 major companies. The research has confirmed that warmth perceptions and communal relationships are the dominant drivers of customer loyalty. What’s a brand to do? The authors posit in a recent article,

“…lasting prosperity requires a fundamental shift in business priorities, a shift in which individual customer relationships are every bit as important as short-term profit. Our success as humans has always depended on the cooperation and loyalty of others, and in that regard, our capacity to express warmth and competence ranks among our most precious assets. Therefore, keeping the best interests of others in balance with our own is simply a form of highly enlightened self-interest.”

I couldn’t agree more. Companies need to find ways to leverage individual customer relationships by doing a tangible extra. Actions speaks louder than words.

Five more “cases” of In the Bag / Out of the Box

Here’s five more examples from the book, What’s Your Purple Goldfish:

imgres-6#1. Johnny CupcakesJohnny Cupcakes bakes its way into Purple Goldfish Project at #636. He was submitted in a tweet by David Knies @davidknies:

@9INCHmarketing stan check out @johnnycupcakes and what they do in their shipments to customers!”

It turns out that Johnny Cupcakes spends time creating a few purple goldfish to accompany his mail order shipments. Here is a comment from a forum:

“What a great display. So, there was a. the box, b. the tissue paper, c. the bag, d. the shirt, e. the hang tag, f. the oven mit label, g. the home alone card, h. the business card, i. the button, and j. the candy.”

Wait a second . . . I didn’t see any cupcakes in that package??? Turns out that Cupcakes is Johnny’s nickname. His name is Earle and Johnny Earle doesn’t make cupcakes. He makes T-shirts and Johnny knows marketing.

Here are three takeaways from Johnny Cupcakes:

1. Details, details, details – Johnny understands that you need to do the little things to stand out in a sea of sameness.  You need to create an experience for your customers and make your brand talkable. The product in ovens + bakery counters, the oven mit hang tags, the takeout boxes and the 80’s T-shirt designs all play a part in creating the Johnny Cupcakes brand.

2. Keep it fresh and limited – Despite numerous offers by department and specialty stores, Johnny prefers to keep it personal and only sells his products online or in his three stores (hometown of Hull, MA, Boston and LA).  All of his shirts are limited editions, some of which are runs of 100 or less.

3. Be approachable and take care of your fans – Part of Johnny’s appeal is his personal story of a scrappy kid selling T-shirts out of an ’86 Toyota.  He’s an American success story of following your passion.  Johnny makes himself accessible by blogging, releasing videos and even hosting customer appreciation events.

#2. Peter Millar – Minty Fresh and Packed with Detail

peter millarPurple Goldfish #437 comes courtesy of University of North Carolina Professor Joe Bob Hester @joebobhester.

Joe Bob forwarded this article from Ron Green Jr. at the Charlotte Observer. It highlights Peter Millar and its founder Scott Knott. Here is an excerpt:

“They remember the mints”

When boxes of golf shirts and shorts and other high-end menswear are shipped from the Peter Millar office and warehouse, the packing list includes mints.

When customers unpack their orders, they are struck by three things: The quality of what they’ve ordered; each item comes out of the box in the order it’s listed on the packing sheet; and, mints are included for the pleasure of it.

It’s a little thing but this year when a few boxes arrived short of mints (they ran out briefly), phone calls started coming.

perpetualkid#3. Perpetual Kid – #549 in the Purple Goldfish Project comes courtesy of Ariel Savrin-Jacobs.

In her own words:

“I spoke to you after blogging about your purple goldfish project this summer when I interned for STELLAService. I’m happy to finally say I’ve found a purple goldfish! I checked your list, so if its updated I think this is a new one.

Last week I bought a few fun things online for my dorm room from It was my first time buying from them, and I’ll certainly be a repeat customer. The site is overall really fun (for example, I got measuring cups that stack like a Russian nesting doll), and it definitely didn’t hurt that my order placed at 10 pm on the 18th shipped the next morning and arrived on the 20th. But the best part of it all was the surprise “finger monster” (for lack of better words) sitting on top when I opened the package. While I don’t quite know what to do with it, I sure got a kick out of it, and I bet many other customers probably did too. I’ve attached a picture of this rubber “finger monster”. Hope it helps on your way to 1,001 and I will let you know if I come across any others!

maroni cuisine of northport#4. Maroni’s Cuisine – A fixed tasting menu, legendary meatballs, free wine and a jar of sauce makes Maroni Cuisine a Long Island Legend:

Maroni Cuisine of Northport pours in at #223 in the Purple Goldfish Project courtesy of Clark Johnson:

“Maroni Cuisine in Northport NY is consistently rated by Zagat voters as either the best or among the best restaurants on Long Island. Mike Maroni beat Bobby Flay in a throwdown! The meals are exclusively customized tasting menus, prix fixe, with all the wine you can drink included.  At the end of the meal, hours later, guests are generally presented with jars of Maroni Pasta sauce as a Thank You. Once you have used it, you want to go back for more (both the meal and the sauce!).”

#5. Michael Lynne’s – This Purple Goldfish Has Balls (three of them to be exact)

michael lynne tennis#245 was submitted by Will Prest. Will is from Minneapolis and he shared this gem from the Twin Cities.  It comes in as #245 in the Purple Goldfish Project:

Michael Lynne’s Tennis Shop

“When you pick up your professionally strung racquet, you get a new can of Penn balls with the Michael Lynne Tennis logo and name in big letters on it. It is a nice gesture, plus his balls are left all over the clubs around town. Here is the website. It got me to visit the site and I read a few of the articles on there…they were a nice surprise.”

Companies that tend to really get the concept of marketing lagniappe, tend to have multiple examples in their arsenal. Maybe it has something to do with fish wanting to swim in schools. Here is an excerpt from an article about Michael Lynne’s in an industry publication:

“…it’s not only about sales. Fully supportive of Minneapolis’ large tennis community, Lynne puts kids’ and local team photos on his back wall along with local tennis stories and news. And he’s happy to offer tennis tips to his customers and encourages them to “test drive” racquets for free.

…Clothing is grouped by size and the price is always visible. Racks are never overcrowded and pieces are displayed on the wall so customers can see them as “outfits.” When customers try on clothes, they find large dressing rooms with excellent lighting. Also, all the employees don various tennis outfits to work so customers can see what the clothes actually look like “on.”The store also has six stringing machines, so, as Michael notes, “You can have your racquets strung while you wait.” But even “waiting” at Michael Lynne’s Tennis Shop is a pleasure. Customers can watch the Tennis Channel on TV while having a snack or sipping gourmet coffee the shop supplies.

“We’re a destination point,” Lynne says. “People have to drive here, so we want to make sure our staff is well-informed on the merchandise and offers great customer service.”

“Michael and Mimzy personify customer service, and they teach their staff to take this approach,” says Greg Mason, senior director of sales for HEAD. “It’s the little things like greeting each customer, then thanking them as they leave, writing thank-you notes to repeat customers — that really makes the difference.”

Let me count the purple goldfish:

  1. Free balls with restringing
  2. Free racquet Demo’s
  3. Stringing while you wait in style
  4. Large well lit dressing rooms
  5. Hand written thank you’s.

I love the last paragraph of the article, “It’s the little things . . . that make the biggest difference.”  AMEN.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Here is Chris Malone talking about The Human Brand at the Human Capital Institute:

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Stan Phelps
Stan Phelps is the Chief Measurement Officer at 9 INCH marketing. 9 INCH helps organizations develop custom solutions around both customer and employee experience. Stan believes the 'longest and hardest nine inches' in marketing is the distance between the brain and the heart of your customer. He is the author of Purple Goldfish, Green Goldfish and Golden Goldfish.


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