Flip a Coin

Sober Lane Cork, Flip a coin

The next round could be on me - Heads or Tails?

My poor son!

Well, not actually.. Brendan is a great kid and for the most part he has a pretty good time doing exactly what he wants in his life with his multi media course at CIT (he is in his last year), his new website, his films and comedy projects – the world is his oyster and he approaches it in such a positive way. I’m sure he will do great.

One of the things that goes against him is his birthday! He was born on the 4th January, 1989 so there is always a danger that Christmas presents can merge into birthday presents and the big problem now is that very few of us are able for the “birthday celebrations” on the 4th January, typically when we are going back to work for the first time in the new year.

This year we had the same dilemma – Brendan was 22 on the 4th of January and as always we wanted to celebrate his day. The problem was the 4th was the Tuesday that we were all heading to work for the first time in the new year – not practical.

The solution was a gathering of Brendan’s friends and a few of us “older fogies” on the Sunday night before that and we left the choice of venue to him. Sober Lane in Cork was his choice, a place he is always raving about. I must admit that at the very tail end of Christmas a night out wasn’t something I felt like and I know Brendan was worried that most of his buddies would be in the same boat – for them it would be a case of  no “bobs”!

In we headed on the Sunday night and I was really surprised to see a packed Sober Lane pub with a great buzz – my god, what was going on here that wasn’t going on everywhere else? Brendan’s buddies arrived in and he ended up having a great night but on top of this the pub was hopping.

The Marketing Guru’s (I’m taking some licence here – why not!) sense of curiosity was working overtime trying to figure out why this pub, which to be honest didn’t seem to be anything really exceptional was so busy.

Up I went to the bar to buy the first round for the thirsty troop – no surprise it was a large order that came in at about €30 – I was nervous.. this birthday was going to clean me out! After settling up with the cheery bar man he asked me did I want to “flip a coin“?

Excuse me? Again he asked me did I want to “flip a coin”. Two guys perched at the bar supping on their pints quickly jumped in and clarified the matter “Go on will ya, heads or tails – if you get it right you get the same round free next time“. My suspicious mind started looking around for the cameras or I wondered what the big catch was about this – ok, heads it is. The barman flipped the coin and surprisingly enough heads it was!

With no real expression one way or the other the barman handed me a receipt for the drinks that I had just bought, he signed his name to it and explained that when I was ready I could bring the receipt to the bar and I would get the exact round free!! Speechless .. (where is the camera?)

Wow – I went back to our troop and told them of my great “win” – “Oh yeah” they do that here every Sunday night, I was told.

The night rolled on, I won another few rounds, there was great crack with everyone in the bar with a constant murmur of “Did you win?“. When I went to the bar the two guys still perched there were having great banter with me “You lucky xxxxxxx” … you can imagine what they were saying.

Not only did we get great value, but there was a great sense of fun and the place was packed. I noticed a funny thing as well – any time I won I felt obligated to stay and buy another round, not to try and win again but to give them something back – very few people seemed to be leaving – brilliant!

Eventually we wandered home leaving the “young guns” to do their thing – on the way to the car we passed a few pubs, which were all pretty much empty.

What the pub was doing was incredible – I can imagine when the crazy idea was first suggested it would have been shot down straight away. The accountants without a doubt had heart attacks, the managers would have argued about how it could be controlled, What about stock control? What about barmen giving free second drinks to their buddies? What about recording the free stock? What about the margins? (its actually not that bad as on average people will only win every second time – and besides you can’t pay your staff with a better percentage) What about the tax man? What about our Profits?

On top of that the Vintners organisations would have tut tutted this “stupid” idea. This crew made it work, the place was packed – and whatever the drawbacks were they still went for it and enjoy a busy pub every Sunday night when others are empty (Sober Lane is busy the whole time – as you can imagine it’s not the only creative thing they do).

When someone comes up with a crazy promotional idea in your business, look past the problems and the issues and give it a chance – you might actually gain more than you lose ..

Ok, heads or tails? – the next years services could be free!

Greg Canty is a partner of Fuzion Communications

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