A pizza chain recently made a splash on the news after it went above and beyond the requirements of customer service to help a deployed soldier surprise his wife.
The story is published here, and by the time I saw it, it had been tweeted over 600 times, and commented upon approximately 6000 times. The cost to the company: two pizzas, a bouquet of flowers, a couple of hours of working time for two employees, and a 50$ gift certificate. Roughly 150 dollars. That’s a 0.025 cent cost, if you count as contacts only the people who actually engaged with this one article about the event.
Google averages 0.001 in cost per impression, based on my calculations, and bidding in cost per click starts at 0.01. So, from a purely financial perspective, the gesture is clearly advantageous, even if this rough and tumble ad equivalency suffers from all the faults of any ad equivalency (you can’t equate the credibility of news exposure, even on flaky yahoo, with the targeted precision of segmented ads, which are nevertheless inherently suspicious etc.). Furthermore, we have actual engagement of potential customers with the story about the brand, and potential for positive word of mouth, as evinced in the 600 tweets that will get read, responded to and retweeted.
In brief, you simply can’t buy that kind of advertising. Not for 150 dollars, anyway. And that’s why I’ve been hammering the point about customer service in the past few posts.