Cashing in on the apocalypse: Five earth shattering marketing tactics

For many people, the Mayan end-of-the-world prophecy is simply a hyped-up event that will come and pass without notice, just like every other prediction of its kind.


But for retailers, it’s an opportunity to make some quick cash – and Australian SMEs are getting in on the action.


The Mayan calendar resets on Friday, December 21. Of course, this has been hyped up into an end-of-the-world scenario with all sorts of commentary surrounding the supposed apocalyptic date.


But dozens of companies across the world have started cashing in on the action, including Australian businesses Crust Pizza and Kogan. Whether it’s cheap pizza or beer, or even bicycles, quick-thinking retailers aren’t skipping a beat.


“Many retailers are just natural entrepreneurs,” says Retail Doctor Group managing director Brian Walker. “They’ve very good at building events around stories like this, and are just very quick to respond. This is a good example.”


Retailers have been responding to incidents like these for years, eager to cash in on whatever they can. The announcement of Kate Middleton’s pregnancy is a more recent example.


Of course, some are better at the tactic than others. Ruslan Kogan has been running these types of sales for years, even back in 2009 when he started selling 37-inch televisions on the back of Kevin Rudd’s stimulus program – the “Kevin37” deal, he called it.


The Mayan apocalypse is much the same, Kogan says.


“We just thought it was funny,” he says. “We don’t actively pursue this type of thing, we just come up with things if we think it’s cool or funny. It’s the same thing we did with the Internet Explorer tax.”


Of course, it can’t always work. Walker says you need to be careful about cashing in on these types of events and make sure it sticks with the brand’s image. While Kogan running one of these sales is part and parcel with his brand, Walker says David Jones would have a bigger struggle.


“It really depends on the retailer,” he says. “Kogan has a more natural invitation to play in this space, but you can’t see David Jones or Myer doing it.”


“But overall, there’s some fun to be had with this type of sale.”


It doesn’t need to be emphasised the Mayan calendar nonsense is exactly that – nonsense. But that hasn’t stopped retailers from getting in on the action – and why not? Here are five of the best end-of-the-world marketing tactics we’ve seen in the lead up to Friday.


1. A final snack


Crust is running a deal for cheap pizza on Thursday, one day before the supposed end of the world. Here’s a good lesson – if you’re going to make an end of the world offer, make it look snazzy.




2. Equip yourselves for the end


Kogan’s sale isn’t just on electronics – the company is discounting equipment “to help people survive the apocalypse”. The Swiss Army Knife, digital radio, telescopes and remote control spy helicopter are all on sale.


Oh, and don’t worry – if the world ends, Kogan says you’ll get a full refund.



3. Drink yourself to oblivion


Several beer companies in the United States are keen to cash in on the end of the world. One company in Rhode Island, Newport Storm, named its 2012 annual release after the “Mayan gods”, complete with South American ingredients.


And in Nevada, the Great Basin Brewing company has created something called the Mayan Maybe! Brew with an appropriate tagline: “Brewed for the apocalypse. Or not.”


4. Why not see a game before the end?


An American baseball team, the Normal CornBelters from the independent Frontier League, have started selling half-price tickets “in case the world ends on December 21st.


“They are not necessarily convinced but, just in case the world does comes to an end on Friday, December 21 (as the Mayan calendar predicts), they want their fans to go out with the finest tickets in hand,” it said.


5. Pedal to the end of the world


The owner of a bicycle store in Lexington, Kentucky, put up a sign advertising his “end of the world sale” with a call to action: “Why not charge it?”


“It just seems like everybody’s numb. There’s so many sales, nobody even seems to care anymore,” owner Mark Trimble told the local news. “And so we figured we’d try to do something a little funny.”


This story first appeared on SmartCompany.


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