Why is BP giving away money?

For the past 2 years, I've gone to the same BP for gas almost weekly. I've only been inside once. Tonight was my second trip. 

On my way home from the gym, dripping wet and 25 degrees cold, I stood there pumping gas, reading the advertisement on the pump. Normally it's for something like coffee, hot dogs or credit cards, but tonight it was more compelling. For every 8 gallons of gas you purchase, you get a scratch-off card with an offer code. Collect 5 cards and enter the codes into the thankyoudays.com website, and BP will send you a $10 BP reward card. 

The catch? You have to walk into the store. 

Shivering, I considered skipping. I never print the receipt at the pump, it was cold, and it looked like the gas station was hopping with people. Nah. But while I waited for the gas to fill my tank, I thought about 10 dollars. Ten dollars! Gas is what, $3.159 a gallon? So I walked into the gas station, and the minute I stepped inside, I saw donuts. I love donuts. And I was starved. Lucky for me, the cashier took me right away; I showed my receipt, he handed me a card, and I was back out in the cold in seconds, no donut. 

But that's probably not how it would normally go. If the line was longer (or the person in front of me was slower), I would've stood there and pondered the donut. A candy bar for $1.29. A Hostess snack cake. And no doubt I'd buy, which is the point exactly (except I'm burying the lede).

How BP got my attention:  

  • Copywriting. In large font on the card and the pump advertisements: "BP Loyalty," "Thank You." Supporting words like "Reward," and, of course $10. The redemption URL: www.thankyoudays.com. The language was friendly and gracious, the offer compelling.

  • Environment. You are captive when you are at the pump. Cell phones are dangerous, and getting back into your car could cause you to burst into flames (I think?). You have nothing better to do than to look at their signs. Or throw your trash in their can, which also has a sign. 
  • Simple sign-up. The website? Not hard. Name, address, email, phone, easy password requirement, optional promotion email signup (unselected by default). It's clearly stated that this info is just so that they know where to send your $10 card. The sign-up process was easily 3 minutes or less, and adding the code took seconds. Now BP knows where I live.

What BP gained: 

  • I walked into their store for the second time in two years. I almost bought a donut. Certainly their donut margins are better than their gas margins. Five in-store visits, five potential convenience store sales. Chances are good that they'll make their $10 dollars back, no? Even better chances that I'll never enter the codes or accrue enough qualifying visits while the offer is valid. 

  • I gave their website personal info. Now they know my IP info (at minimum), and since I filled out their form, I gave them my name, address, email and phone. I may have refused their promo emails, but if they wanted to, they could learn a lot about me and my habits. Or my local BP's habits. 
  • I have a more positive impression of my local BP. I'll be back next week for more gasoline. And think about it. It's BP of oil spill fame, the same folks who ruined the Gulf and had poor media relations while doing it. 

So why did BP do this? Better sales in convenience stores for sure, but with a side benefit of polishing their brand a bit. Really, "loyalty," "thank you"? What are they thanking me for? Buying gas, or buying gas from a company with a bad reputation?  

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