Free Stuff Dance

As tropical storm Prapiroon lashes the Hong Kong buildings with rain and wind, Krispy Kreme (KK) was out with their latest promotion trying to stir up some business for its first store in Hong Kong (in Causeway Bay). They were giving out free boxes (6-packs) of their original doughnuts just outside the Two IFC Mall. The weather was no deterrent as hundreds of people flocked to the outdoor stand. KK must have handed out several thousand doughnuts to tourists, office-workers, and passers-by. Of course, just as I located the source of it all, the last box had just been given away.

To get to the point, Hong Kong people Chinese people love free stuff. Okay, (most) everybody likes free stuff. But Chinese people in particular will do anything for free stuff. They open bank accounts to get the free rice cookers, suitcases, alarm clocks. They loyally fly particular airlines in hopes they can cash in their mileage for free plane tickets. They only shop for stuff on sale. It’s pretty clear that the Chinese know how to do the frugal dance.

So, if you want to do business in Hong Kong, the only way to play the PR game is to do the free giveaway. And by all accounts, it’s worth it. There is no stigma against brands here. Old grandmas will faithfully use the same branded Pepsi bag that they got ten years ago and bring it everywhere they go. Free advertising. And there is nothing wrong with getting in line with hundreds of other people to get free stuff. When I put on Pippin at Shantou University, the way we made the production a hot event was to give away free tickets. People lined up to get the tickets. We could have just as easily said that anyone who wanted to could come to the show, for free. But the key was the perceived value of the ticket in hand.

Krispy Kreme has got the idea but it’s still a hard sell because KK is not located in the IFC Mall. What are the chances that an office-worker will take the subway two stops during lunch to pick up some doughnuts for the office? Plus, most real Hong Kong people avoid the shopping capital, Causeway Bay, like the plague. Maybe, KK has the IFC Mall scoped out for one of their many location additions within the next year.