Is the Thresher discount coupon a fake viral campaign?

The phony Thresher 40% discount coupon
Let’s get this straight. The Threshers coupon is a con. Or at least a clever pre-Christmas promotion. Let me sketch the background for you foreigners (although I suppose the thing has probably been downloaded on every continent by now – as we speak, no doubt, there are people wandering the streets of Lusaka and Aukland and Santiago looking for a branch of Threshers).

Here in Britain there’s a chain of off-licenses (liquor stores) called Thresher. A couple of years ago they ran a one-month 3-for-2 promotion (buy two bottles of anything, get a third free). It was a huge hit so the management extended it indefinitely. This, obviously, required a pretty chunky upward adjustment to the store’s per-bottle prices and Thresher is now a very expensive place to buy a single bottle of wine but the effect on the business has been substantial. Thresher is the number 1 UK non-supermarket booze chain, sales are booming and the brand stands out from the mass of crappy High Street wine shops.

So, this week, Thresher accidentally released a ‘staff only’ (or ‘supplier only’ or ‘friends only’, depending who you believe) print-out-and-present 40% discount coupon onto the Internet. The chain estimates 800,000 downloads already and claims to be ‘worried’ about the effect of such a biblical flood of coupons on profits before Christmas. Of course, this is all classic retail bullshit. Even with a per-bottle discount of 40% the store will certainly still make a net profit on all those new sales and, of course, the boost to raw volume will do the chain’s December numbers no harm at all. Note also, that the 40% discount cancels the 3-for2 promotion (you can’t have both) so there’s a good chance that this rogue coupon will actually boost profit for its ten day duration.

I’m genuinely impressed: a 40% discount coupon would have been quite a good idea for the first ten days of boozy December but a highly viral, slightly naughty (“hey, did you hear about that Threshers coupon?”) ‘accidental’ campaign is cleverer still.

In my local branch of Thresher this evening, the buzz was tangible. Empty shelves and lots of excited punters snatching the otherwise-overpriced booze from the shelves. We all, clearly, felt rather pleased with ourselves. We were participating in something cool and contemporary and we felt really canny to be slapping down our ‘dodgy’ coupons. I suppose it’s win-win (I did get a nice discount) but, ultimately those empty shelves mean only one thing: big profits for Thresher. Clever Thresher.


  1. If you go to Hugh Mcleod’s bog ( and go back to Nov 24th you’ll see where it started. Was out on the Scoble piss up with him yesterday and he was happy as Larry at how it had panned out. Well, he works for Stormhoek who sell wine who had passed him the promotion …

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