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Want fanatically loyal customers? What you can learn from a Dutch supermarket.

Want fanatically loyal customers? What you can learn from a Dutch supermarket.

Kids wait outside the doors asking people if they have any extra cards.

The kids ask their parents to buy more at Albert Heijn (the largest Dutch supermarket chain but also a world player in the industry). We went today not because we were running out of milk, but because my 9-year old wanted to fill up his Costa Rica pages.

Here’s the Deal

In a stroke of brilliant marketing, Albert Heijn hands out free books to kids to collect something. Last year, it was World Cup stickers. This year, it’s Freek and his wild animals. Freek is the Dutch equivalent of Crocodile Dundee or those other crazy adventure-documentary-style nature programs where really excited young men go out and wrestle poisonous snakes while secretly teaching kids something. They’re fun to watch and the kids love them.

Enter the supermarket and sticker books. So they hand out the books and for every 10 Euros you spend (at today’s rate, around 10 dollars), you get one sticker. The book probably has, I don’t know, 50 stickers. You can do the math, you can spend a lot of money at the supermarket to fill your book. Don’t forget that you can’t ask the checker for the Australian wild dingo because you don’t have that one because each sticker is individually wrapped and you need to open it to see what it is. So even if you spend 40 Euros on food you didn’t even really need, you might only get 1 or 2 stickers you need. I know, it’s a dilemma. A potentially expensive one.

But it’s brilliant, isn’t it?

Sure, think of your customers. But also think of people your customers are “dependent” on.

In case you forgot, kids aren’t the ones who pay at the supermarkets. In fact, my kids don’t usually even like going to the market. But now they want to go. They want to go and spend your money–and lots of it. In fact, the more the better.

Kids wait out front of the market and ask anyone and everyone if they have any extra stickers. If the parents have kids or have stickers but need them, the kids out front might even be so bold to ask them which cards they have and would they like to trade.

The promotion just ended, but the fun hasn’t. Today at the market, there are hundreds of opened stickers on an empty table in the market where kids pick and choose and trade what they don’t yet have. It’s a free for all–and the kids love it.

My son got home tonight and spent the next hour carefully placing the right stickers in the right spots. He’s only missing a few now … we’ve bought a lot of cheese in the past few weeks.

This isn’t video games or Microsoft or even brilliant Apple. This is a supermarket.

What I don’t get is why US supermarkets don’t do something like this. Or why doesn’t any (or every) shop of any kind do something like this? OK, sure, it helps that it’s a place where you go on a regular basis. It’s also a necessity: you need to buy groceries somewhere. It’s not a video game store, it’s not a luxury or fun or entertainment. It’s food, it’s sustenance. So why not turn that into something fun?

Forget the parents (for now), focus on who is going to drag their parents to the Albert Heijn, not the competing and less expensive supermarkets, but this supermarket. They don’t care if you have enough butter, ” … just please spend another 30 Euros, I need to get that cute South African gazelle.”


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