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What You Can Learn From This Bar’s Brilliant Pricing Promotion

This article was originally published as part of my column in Inc. on July 7, 2015.

On July 7, The Way Station bar in Brooklyn offered its female patrons any drink for just 77 cents on the dollar. Here’s how it ended up hitting the jackpot.

Giving away free stuff, matching a sale to a donation, giving major discounts, celebrating certain tribes (psychographic or demographic)–all of these are age-old marketing and sales techniques that are often applied to certain days, products, or audiences. I’m sure this became crystal clear to all of us once again during the 4th of July holiday–any holiday is a good time to come up with that sales shtick or marketing idea to generate immediate sales and future leads.

Most sales tactics are usually lukewarm, overused, and, well, “sales-y.” They start to turn interesting when they feel not only generous but also authentic and empathetic. A tough mix to brew up, but one bar in Brooklyn, New York, has done just that this week. On July 7, The Way Station bar offered its female patrons any drink for just 77 cents on the dollar.

77PercentBranding

Bizarre, don’t you think? Here’s where the empathy and authenticity hits the jackpot: DNA Info New York notes that the business is “recognizing the difference between the average pay of women and men–77 cents on the dollar, according to the labor department–charging ladies only 77 percent of their bar tabs.”

Even though the idea itself stems from the Lean In D.C. chapter of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In movement, I thought it was a great promotional stint. Then it hit me: Is this a one-time marketing idea, or should it turn into a business model?

I spend a lot of time with entrepreneurs defining their brand positioning at the onset of their company foundation, and the lines between sales opportunity, marketing shtick, and authentic brand promise tend to blur quickly. And that is a mighty good thing.

Toms gets rightfully credited for creating the “one-for-one movement,” which acted as the foundation to a tremendously successful business model that has been adopted by countless others, from Warby Parker to Yoobi. It’s a new twist on an old sales tactic: buy one, get one free.

Entire companies are now based on what used to be “special promotions,” and they’ve made it their meaningful brand promise. The huge success of celebrity chef Danny Meyer’s Shake Shack can be attributed to his “enlightened hospitality” mantra, which is taken into action through the burger chain’s staff being overly generous to customers. Yes, you might get a free dessert because a waiter decided you deserved it.

Startups that successfully weave sales tactics into their brand’s positioning are becoming more and more prevalent by making truly meaningful experiences for customers. Looking at the one-day promotion by the Brooklyn bar made me wonder why the 77 percent discount should not turn into the next one-for-one model for other businesses.

Hopefully, one day the wage gap will close for good. If your startup is seriously concerned about gender pay inequality in 2015 and beyond, the markup lost in that missing 23 percent can be made up in many other ways. Attracting a passionate audience that will fully embrace and share your brand–that might be more difficult to accomplish.

Just my 23 cents on a topic that I hope will be taking branding, and the startup scene, by storm–and rightfully so.

 

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