Supermarket giant Woolworths has been slammed on social media for advertising a toy item for 1c cheaper than its standard price.
The item, for a Little Live Pets Butterfly House, was advertised for $19.99 next to the words “is $20, save 1c” and the supermarket giant’s well-known “cheap cheap special” branding.
A shopper who snapped up the offer in-store would be disappointed as the amount would be rounded up to $20 at the point of purchase.
The social media backlash started after the ad appeared in a Woolworths store in Sydney’s west and a photo of it was placed online.
Some on Twitter wondered whether it represented the “worst sale of all time”.
— Ben Klingberg (@BenKlingberg) September 22, 2015
Nicole Reaney, director of InsideOut Public Relations, told SmartCompany the incident is likely just a “hiccup” for Woolworths rather than a complete branding fail.
“It’s obviously an error and I doubt there was a genuine intention here to mislead customers,” she says.
“I’d say it was missed internally in an effort to quickly get the offer to market.”
But Reaney says the backlash in light of Woolworth’s “cheap cheap” motto and branding against the ad was understandable.
“It’s evidently creating a laugh and viral attention in both media sites and in social conversations,” she says.
But Reaney thinks it’s unlikely the incident will create a social media storm for days on end and may actually be beneficial for Woolies.
“In this instance, it’s ‘any publicity is good publicity’ as attention and conversation is being generated around the brand,” she says.
“The recent results of the retail market have shown that Woolworths has trumped Coles, and is winning the price war.”
Nevertheless, Reaney says small and medium size businesses can learn from the incident.
“The speed to market is what gives businesses their edge in a highly competitive marketplace,” she says.
“But it’s critical that companies have in place workflows and double-check points and approvals in their standard operating procedures.
“This way you avoid the scrutiny of the public. Test marketing your exact offering, to get feedback is another important practice.”
Reaney says the second lesson is to do with “understanding exactly what motivates your customers to pick up your product, hit your website or purchase”.
“(It) will enable you to provide them with an effective campaign,” she says.
And if something does go wrong, Reaney says do what you can to solve the problem.
“When you do make a mistake, take responsibility, communicate with your stakeholders and remedy the issue,” she says.
SmartCompany contacted Woolworths but did not receive a response prior to publication.