Build-a-Bear – a company that produces customised teddy bears – is usually a company that produces positive emotions and feelings. How could the company then end up on the Mirror’s scandal pages on 12 July – headline “Build-a-Bear carnage”?
The headline described the marketing fiasco that the company had just produced quite accurately. Earlier on the same day Build-a–Bear had launched its first “Pay Your Age Day” campaign in UK and North America. Instead of the normal retail price of usually around 50 Punds or Dollars (depending on country), customers were invited to only pay their current age in that currency. All bears were included in the deal, with a stated minimum price for this offer at £1/1$ (for those 1 year or younger). That made it a no-brainer for a target group that on average is around five years old – in fact, for the average customer that was a 90% discount!
The campaign thus generated a hype among families with young parents. Stores were quickly overwhelmed by demand and queues grew quickly and parents with little kids had to wait for hours in the summer heat – in some cases up to nine hours. Some stores quickly ran out of stock, upsetting customers. Some stores eventually introduced a number/ticket system to prevent fighting in the queues. When it faced a crowd of ever angrier customers, the store in Belfast had to close and call the police. Many other stores had to do the same, turning away parents and children alike. While the company tried to manage the crisis in its stores and on social media alike, it quickly went out of control, so that the company cancelled the campaign very quickly. In a public statement the company apologized for the campaign and offered vouchers to disappointed customers.