[From the Huddersfield Daily Examiner, 30th December 2013]
A controversial pub crawl is a case study in a book about why successful businesses deliberately try to lose customers.
The Ale Trail, which brought extra trade – and problems – to Slaithwaite and Marsden, is featured in Demarketing.
The book includes an 8,000-word study of the Ale Trail by former Huddersfield University lecturer Nadio Granata and former Huddersfield town centre manager David Wyles.
The book seeks to explain why and how companies sometimes actively try to reduce their customer base.
Mr Wyles explains:
“There are many good reasons to do so. A firm cannot supply large enough quantities or wants to limit supply to a region of narrow profit margin. Or, crucially, to discourage undesirable customers – those who could be bad for brand reputation or, in the case of the finance sector, high risk.”
In 2004, for example, luxury clothing manufacturer Burberry stopped making its popular checked baseball cap because the hat had become undesirably associated with ‘chavs’ and football hooligans.
Mr Wyles said:
“De-marketing can yield effective solutions to these issues, effectively curtailing demand yet (crucially) not destroying it.
“Nevertheless, the fundamental negativity of de-marketing strategies often causes organisations to hide them from view and, as a result, they are rarely studied.”
The Ale Trail, a train tour of real ale pubs between Manchester, Huddersfield and Leeds, is regarded by some as a victim of its own success.
The trail, originally aimed at law-abiding real ale drinkers, was ‘hijacked’ by lager louts, hen and stag parties and other revellers.
Increasing anti-social behaviour in normally quiet villages like Marsden and Slaithwaite led to a gentlemen’s agreement between some pubs on the trail.
Premises such as The Riverhead, Marsden, have since refused to serve lager or fancy dress parties during peak periods.
Mr Granata said:
“Some marketing tasks are very straight forward but others, such as managing the excessive popularity of the Real Ale Trail, are highly complicated. It requires a good understanding of the root cause of the problem plus a long-term strategic view.
“Many livelihoods are at stake and simply cancelling the Real Ale Trail would not serve the needs of those pubs and other businesses that rely on the income it generates for their survival.”
Demarketing (Routledge) is available from www.routledge.com