Free leggings: Clever marketing tactic or sneaky practice?

  • Opinion
  • October 27, 2016
  • Fiona Kerr
Free leggings: Clever marketing tactic or sneaky practice?

Not many people know about this, but I recently took a leave of absence from shopping.

Shock horror!

I decided that for the (long) month of September, I wouldn’t buy any material possessions – no bags, shoes, scarves (and I saw a really nice one at Seed), beauty products, jewellery or accessories. Nothing. Nada. No matter what sale/discount/special was thrown at me, I was determined to stay the course and not succumb to temptation. Funnily enough, I kept going and lasted until halfway through October! So basically, it was like doing Lent. I gave up shopping pleasures for 40 days.

Why am I telling you this? Well, it’s how I found myself with a free pair of leggings.

Let me explain. I was flicking through Facebook, and came across an advert that was offering leggings for free. That’s right – a product for free, all I needed to do was pay the shipping fee. Shipping was calculated at US$34 and I clicked ‘Buy’. After all, I was simply paying shipping and getting the leggings for free!

Obviously out of practice, I neglected to factor in the exchange rate and NZ$50 popped up on my credit card.

I really hadn’t meant to spend $50 on leggings from The Girlfriend Collective. I was still on my hippy/free love/damn possessions high from not shopping for 40 days … and afterwards, I felt a little bit tricked into the purchase.

The advertising proclaimed them “The best pair of leggings you’ll ever own”, with messaging that included “Your favourite leggings are here”. The company clearly has a vision to develop high performance clothing with an ethical/green angle, as the leggings are made from a custom fabric created from post-consumer recycled water bottles. The output is a fabric that is roughly 79 percent recycled micro polyester and 21 percent spandex. The micro-denier polyester yarn provides wicking capabilities (meaning you can keep cool when hot and warm in colder situations) and the spandex allows for a snug fit to your body shape for compression benefits. This recycled fabric is then blended with a new fabric called ‘Tite Tech’, which is soft and smooth on both the inside and outside of fabric. It prevents pilling, and is completely opaque.

The company’s founder, Ellie Dinh has said that the offer was born from an idea that "instead of going the status quo and giving more money over to the advertising companies, we decided to spend that money giving leggings to our customers and asking them to spread the word for us." In essence they are creating an army of brand fans from the word go that will spread the brand message and drive word-of-mouth recommendations. After all women like to talk about stuff, and they love talking about getting a bargain.

The Girlfriend Collective has a code of ethics that they adhere to in all their business practices. They are certified fair trade, and follow standardised guidelines to protect the integrity of workers’ conditions and wages. The company is based out of Seattle but the factory is located in Vietnam, so the cost of the shipping is via UPS couriers. They helpfully point out in their FAQ section on the website, that (obviously) the further away you live the more shipping will be. The average cost is US$22 for a package to the States, so US$34 seems about right for a NZ delivery. They even have a UPS calculator available so you can see that there’s either no mark up or a limited mark up on the shipping.

This offer only applies to the first batch of leggings. Pre-orders will be collected and dispatched for arrival in early December, and once they get up and running with multiple clothing options they won’t necessarily be employing this pricing strategy. As a risk guarantee, they also have online tracking available BUT you cannot return the pre-order purchase of your leggings. 

So – clever tactic or sneaky practice?

Well, I can’t confirm 100 percent as I won’t get the actual leggings until December (I hate delayed satisfaction, I’m a consumer damn it!) I hope they are everything the company claims – high quality, functional and better for the environment.

But I can say that I find the concept intriguing. What a great way to encourage a trial! Again and again the concept of trialling products comes up in my discussions with clients – how do we get consumers to try our product or service? How do we get them to switch? How can we “break” market leader preference? The common belief is that consumers are exposed to over 5,000 ads and brands per day. So why wouldn’t you want to stand out from the crowd?

In fact, it’s imperative that you do - we're past the age of information and we're into the age of experience. Sampling practices have been employed for a number of years, but this idea flips it on its head. The Girlfriend Collective are putting their money where their proverbial mouth is. It’s not a new strategy for manufacturers, but certainly not the usual route: “Hey consumer. Have our product for free – just pay the delivery cost” does seem to give some weight to the proposition.

And the benefit is I (could) get an awesome pair of leggings for only NZ$50.

All I know is that:

  1. It got my attention and cut through the clutter (Facebook is chock-a-block full of clutter.)
  2. I completely buy into the brand’s proposition of sustainability and ethical practices.
  3. It made me break my no-shopping fast and I’ve told a lot of people about the offer and the brand.

I’ll wait with bated breath for the package to be delivered. To be continued ….

If you can’t wait to find out – check out this review.

This column was originally published on Kerr's LinkedIn blog

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