Good marketing for worse times - Part 4

Eight companies using job-loss insurance as a sales tool.

Consumers are worried. They don't want to buy big-ticket -- and even medium-ticket -- items because they're afraid of losing their jobs so they won't be able to make the monthly payments.

Their fears aren't unfounded.

Pundits say the recession may be bottoming out, but they're also predicting a jobless recovery. Employment isn't projected to start back up until late 2010 or the first half of 2011.

At the end of the first half of 2009 a total of 14.7 million people were unemployed,. That doesn't include people whose work had been scaled back, like the California state employees who are furloughed three days a month without pay. And the forecast is for worse ahead, with unemployment rising into double digits.

The Consumer Confidence Survey™ found that only 17.4% of consumers anticipate job growth in the months ahead.

Maybe worried is too mild a word for today's consumer mood. Terrified might be more accurate.
That has some pretty frightening implications for marketers. The gigantic slapping sound we've been hearing recently is wallets slamming shut. Consumers who are very afraid of losing their jobs are cutting way back on spending.

How can you get them to buy your product or service in an environment like this? Give them insurance that promises if they lose their jobs they won't have to pay. That's what these eight companies are doing:

1. It worked for Hyundai. They were the first to focus their marketing efforts on job-loss insurance. They offered to take cars back if the buyers lost their jobs. The promotion increased Hyundai's U.S. sales 0.5% in the first quarter of 2009 while the overall U.S. auto industry plummeted 37.6%.

2. Ford went Hyundai one better after seeing the amazing results of the promotion. In April and Ma,y Ford offered to make up to twelve months' payments if customers lose their jobs. So customers who lose their jobs gets to keep their cars.

3. JetBlue gives customers a full refund if they lose their jobs before their trips. The low-fare airline saw a double benefit from the offer. First, people weren't afraid to book a trip. Second, they booked far in advance to take advantage of bargain fares. Before the promotion began JetBlue had seen people defer trip planning until close to the departure date.

4. A builder sells homes with a job-loss insurance offer. Bigelow offers a plan that covers mortgage payments if a home buyer loses her or his job. They also add another reassuring offer. If the value of the house goes down, they'll pay the buyer the difference. Bigelow credits six additional sales directly to the promotion. And six home sales in 2009's market add up to a very big deal.

5. The Minnesota Timberwolves fill seats with a job-loss insurance offer. They offered to refund a prorated percentage of the season ticket price for games not yet played if the ticket holder loses her or his job. According to their CMO Ted Johnson "We sold three times the number of tickets as the same time last year."

6. Sears offered job-loss insurance on major appliances in July. They tied in the protection to their Citibank Sears card, so they encouraged sales, generated new cardholders and got additional income because the cards were used.

7. Virgin Mobile will waive up to three months of cell phone service charges for subscribers who lose their jobs.

8. Joseph A. Banks offered to refund the price of a suit if the buyer lost his job. And the buyer could keep the suit.

These offers all have conditions and fine print. Most require that customers be employed for a minimum period after the purchase and then lose their jobs because of a reduction in force, not because of a firing offence.

But even with pages of stipulations, job-loss insurance offers assure customers that they won't be making a big mistake with a big-ticket purchase. That assurance can often turn an otherwise-deferred purchase into a sale.

There are two additional advantages to job-loss insurance. The companies offering the coverage report very low redemption rates. Typically less than 2%. And companies forge a bond with consumers because they understand and respond to the things that worry consumers today.

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To find out more about good marketing for the worst times – and for the better times to come – call BrainPosse at 865-330-0055 or click here.