Build-A-Bear promotion leaves a furry taste in the mouth

I don’t know about Build-A-Bear, what about build a bad reputation for customer service, because that’s exactly what the well-known toy store did last week when its ‘Pay your age’ promotion went paws up.

Quite frankly, anyone who has the strength of character to queue for several hours with a bunch of over-excited ankle-biters deserves a medal, not a money-off voucher, but that’s what customers were given when stock ran out and shops closed early. There was a bit of argy-bargy and the police were called to some locations, but the net result, apart from a lot of kids in meltdown and their parents in breakdown, was some quite significant reputational damage to Build-A-Bear.

So was Build-A-Bear what we often refer to as a victim of its own success? I guess so, but what it was really a victim of was its own poor planning, and in the promotions world that’s as unforgiveable as, well, promising a small child a cute soft toy and then reneging on that promise. The bare-faced cheek of it! Quite simply, Build-A-Bear didn’t think it through and it should have done.

If you’re running any sort of promotion, be it a prize draw, an on-pack promotion or an Instagram campaign, you need to compute all the angles and then compute them again in case you’ve missed anything. How do you know whether you’ve missed anything? Well, obviously you don’t, but if you draw on the expertise of specialists with logical brains and experience in running promotions they will work through the process with you and help you spot the risks.

In this instance it probably wouldn’t have assisted Build-A-Bear much, but for prize promotions there is the option to put a risk-managed solution in place, so that you don’t suffer financially if your promotion is more successful than anticipated and you have to award more prizes than you thought you would.

When a scenario like the Build-A-Bear one hits the news it’s tempting to recall the old saying that no PR is bad PR, but that just isn’t the case. Only time will tell whether Build-A-Bear can recover from this debacle and restore the reputational damage it’s suffered, but if you go down to the woods today don’t fall for Build-A-Bears schtick about being sorry for the heartbreak it caused. This was an entirely avoidable promotional disaster.

Prizeology are prize promotions specialists, so we can do the hard thinking to ensure that your promotion is a genuine success, and if you need it we can arrange a risk-managed solution for you, too. All you have to do is get in touch with us on 020 7856 0402 or via

Sarah Burns is Prizeology’s Chief Prizeologist and a National Trading Standards Scams Team Scambassador. She has spent many an hour in Build-a-Bear.

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