Summer is only in its second week, but marketers already are latching onto it like drowning swimmers to a life preserver.
They need summer every bit as much as workers need a break.
Summer is when most folks are in the mood - and have the time - to spend money. "People tend to feel released from obligations in the summer," says consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow. "People rationalize a lot of spending under the umbrella of 'doing it with family.' "
It's also a time, with family in tow, when people are value-conscious and experience-seeking. Families expect to spend $1,180 per person on summer travel - same as last year, says American Express Spending & Saving Tracker. But nearly half say that this summer they're seeking "meaningful experiences."
So, it's no surprise that some of the nation's top marketers are concocting creative ways to entice folks to spend more summer with them by:
•Hosting crazy stunts. Mattel has spent more than $1 million to create a live stunt on Saturday at ESPN's X Games in Los Angeles that pits two race cars resembling Hot Wheels in a race through a 60-foot loop. A roller-coaster engineer, a NASA scientist and a Navy fighter pilot consulted on the stunt. "We have no blockbuster movie tie-in this summer," says Simon Waldron, VP of Hot Wheels marketing. "But we have a blockbuster event."
•Showing flicks for a buck. Some 281 theaters owned by Regal Entertainment Group will show $1 Summer Movie Express G- and PG-rated movies at 10 a.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays all summer. Most are recent but not first-run films, such as Hugo and Dolphin Tale. Sometimes, entire camps show up unannounced with buses full of kids, says Russ Nunley, VP of marketing. "It's a way to foster the next generation of moviegoers."
•Appealing to kids. Pringles will dole out thousands of speakers, worth $20, that fit atop Pringles cans and amplify music from MP3 players. Just send in four Pringles proof-of-purchase receipts. "Its a quirky way to bring flavor to summer," says marketing chief Andrea Theodore.
•Offering free desserts. Kids who go to Boston Market in team uniforms - and order kids meals - until July 29, get a free cookie, brownie or pie slice. Boston Market has dubbed itself the "unofficial sponsor of summer."
•Cutting prices in half. Summer nights after 8 local time, ice cream shakes at Sonic are half-price. Sonic even christened itself "official sponsor of the sun."