Thursday, May 15, 2008


I write this post after being informed this morning that today is "Free Iced Coffee Day" at Dunkin Donuts (May 15th, 10 am-10 pm) go get your caffeine fix if you'd like.

I've come across a lot of free stuff in the past couple of weeks. I'll probably go get an iced coffee after work, if not sooner. I got a couple of free movie rentals last week. I got some free music a couple weeks ago too (legal free music, that is). So what's the deal? I thought nothing in life was free.

Well, why do businesses offer products for free? It seems a bit counter-intuitive to the whole, "making a profit" model, right? Well, people love free stuff. Getting something for free that you would normally have to pay for can create awareness and lead to adopting whatever it is at a price.

Take the iced coffee for example. As warm weather hits our area, many people transition from their warm cup of coffee to an iced cup...or add an afternoon iced cup of coffee to their routine. On the first warm day of the year, there's nothing better than a quality cup of iced coffee...and that's when you're paying for it. Somehow it tastes better when it's free though. DD's will create iced refreshing joy for many people today...and many of those people will remember that iced refreshing joy and try to replicate it all summer long. One free cup can lead to a summer full of paid ones. Also, they're not delivering the iced coffee to have to go to the Dunkin Donuts yourself. They'll probably see a boost in foot traffic today, but not everyone will restrict themselves to what's free - people will give in to paying for the donuts they see behind the counter.

Free movie rentals. Many people don't even leave the house to get their movies nowadays...whether it's watching something on the 50 movie channels that they subscribe to, getting something through Netflix in the mail, ordering a new release through Amazon, or even watching a streaming or downloaded movie on their computer, the days of going down the street to Blockbuster are quickly declining. Then there's RedBox...the movie-rental vending machine. Many people are unaware of these machines, but they probably walk by them as they leave the supermarket. They offer one-night rentals for $1. They're also fairly liberal in offering free "promo-codes" that you can enter on certain days for free rentals. My brother and I were mentioning it's effect though. These machines are often located in supermarkets...if you're going to the supermarket just to get a free rental, you may think, "oh well I guess while I'm here, I should get some snacks to eat while I watch the movie," or something similar. The free rental is the bait. Also, you get a free rental on Monday, but you have to go back to the machine on Tuesday to return it...many people may just decide to pay for another rental while they're there.

Offering music for free online has been a trend that I have discussed before. I like Coldplay's latest strategy though. They offered their new single online for free. They're also having a contest for free tickets to one of their two shows - one in the UK, one in NYC. They're creating a lot of buzz over this, and it seems like they're giving away a lot, but they're definitely not going to completely lose out. They only gave away their single...people will still buy the album. Plus, if people enter the contest for free concert tickets, but lose, they will probably try to buy tickets to one of their other shows on their tour.

So, be a smart consumer...take advantage of what's free - but be weary of the purpose.

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