For some Atlanta-based hunters, preparing for this year’s deer hunting season started with a diamond purchase. The gift wasn’t a form of payment to wives and girlfriends to get multiple weekends off with the boys. It was a way to get a free hunting rifle as part of D. Geller and Son’s innovative gift-with-purchase program, which ran from September 20 to 22.
Tripling sales compared to the same period last year was the least of store owner Mike Geller’s successes with his store’s purchase a diamond worth $2,500 or more to receive a free hunting rifle event. The media attention the gift-with-purchase program generated was nothing less than overwhelmingly phenomenal.
During Labor Day weekend, a billboard promoting the event was put up on I-75. The busy main artery runs through Atlanta, where an estimated 300,000 motorists saw the hunting season promotion each day.
“We started getting calls the day the billboard went up,” says Mike. “People took pictures of the billboard, posted them on Facebook and other websites, and the calls started coming in.”
Reactions ran the gamut from people congratulating the store on a clever promotion, to complaints from animal rights advocates. But perhaps the most calls came from news outlets looking to latch on to a news feature story that was going crazy-viral all over the Internet and on late-night and daytime TV shows.
To the best of Mike’s knowledge, Atlanta residents must have taken pictures of the billboard, posted them on social media and image-share websites, and within days images of the contest were everywhere.
Since Labor Day weekend, for example, an image of the contest billboard has received more than 1 million views on Imgur, an image-sharing website. Comedian Jeff Foxworthy even posted the billboard on his Facebook page.
In September, Mike felt like a bit of a celebrity with mentions of his promotion on the Jimmy Kimmel Show, Tosh.0, and Live with Kelly and Michael. Mike was also interviewed on the Today Show. Specialty magazines (namely Field & Stream) carried the story as did local, regional, national, even international news outlets.
“CNN picked up the story as did FOX, both airing the story several times,” says Mike. “People I know in the industry saw local news stories of our program as far away as San Francisco. I was told by industry friends that the South China Post ran the story and a diamond magazine published in Israel even carried it.”
George Prout, vice president of marketing for Gems One, coordinated the gift-with-purchase program with Mike. George knew of an Appleton, WI-based retail jeweler that ran such a pre-hunting season gift-with-purchase program as far back as 10 years ago. Since then, Gems One has integrated this gift-with-purchase program into the company’s suite of services for jewelry store owners, working with select retailers in several markets in recent years.
And, not surprisingly, many local and even regional news outlets ran news stories of the program in the past, but only got “modest” play, even after an Owatonna, MN-based retail jeweler client, who ran the same program in 2010, was interviewed on the Today Show, according to George.
But it wasn’t until D. Geller and Son’s gift-with-purchase program that the innovative nature of the program caught on like wildfire.
“We knew, given the stature of D. Geller and Son, and Mike’s presence in the Atlanta market, that news of the program would catch on, but we never imagined this sort of viral response,” says George. “We knew the store could potentially realize from 4% to 8% of annual sales in one weekend.”
A major factor that made it a pre-hunting season sensation was the I-75 billboard. “In the past, retailers didn’t use billboards,” says George. “This is what tipped the scales for D. Geller and Son.”
Timing of the event was also a key factor in the success of D. Geller and Son’s gift-with-purchase program. “In presidential election years, the domestic issue of gun control always comes up,” says George.
A pre-hunting season launch to come before Georgia’s deer hunting season was also part of critical timing. But, as Atlanta residents, the nation, and the world discovered, even the best intentioned gift-with-purchase program required careful market positioning, especially with the Batman movie massacre that happened in Aurora, Colorado, in July.
“We had some mild trepidation about the gift-with-purchase program in the wake of the incident,” says D. Geller and Son Chief Marketing Officer Heather Klisures. “But we made sure that the weapon was always referred to as a hunting rifle instead of a gun.”
D. Geller and Son also chose the best cross-promotional partner possible for such a promotion: Adventure Outdoors. The sporting goods super-store has more than 10,000 guns in inventory, and is the area’s leading outdoorsman store.
During September, D. Geller and Son also ran fun promotions to support the event. “Hump Day Giveaway” - a Facebook-based contest run every week - included t-shirts promoting the contest. “These went over very well,” says Mike.
D. Geller and Son also carefully selected the type of hunting rifle to use in the promotion, namely the latest weapon from Thompson/Center. “Hunters like this brand and we had several hunting rifles on display throughout the store,” says Mike. “That weekend, we gave out vouchers to be redeemed at Adventure Outdoors.”
Some Atlanta residents and media outlets were confused about the nature of the hunting rifle gift-with-purchase program. “Some thought that people could buy a diamond and leave our jewelry store with the hunting rifle,” says Mike. “That would be in violation of ATF [Alcohol, Firearm and Tobacco] laws.”
Mike is looking forward to running the contest again next year. “It was a huge success for us,” says Mike. “We even had a guy call from out of state to buy a $2,500 gift card just to get the hunting rifle.”