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Dec 20, 2012

The Mayan sales: cashing in on the end of the world

Everything must go -- including the world. Businesses are cashing in on the Mayan apocalypse with branded sales -- and money back if the world really does end. Patrick Stafford reports.

If the world is going to end tomorrow, as Mayan end-of-the-world prophecy goes, Australian businesses are going to cash in first. Whether it’s cheap pizza or beer, or even bicycles, quick-thinking retailers are taking advantage.

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

Ruslan Kogan has been running themed sales for years, including a 2009 promotion selling 37-inch televisions on the back of Kevin Rudd’s stimulus program — the “Kevin37” deal. The Mayan apocalypse is new inspiration.

“We just thought it was funny,” Kogan said. “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.”

It doesn’t always work. Walker says businesses need to be careful not to trash the brand: Kogan might get away with it, but another retailer might struggle. “It really depends on the retailer,” he said. “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.”

Here’s the five 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 today, one day before the supposed end of the world.

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. 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”. It’s a 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, has 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 article was originally published at SmartCompany

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