Birthday Bear Marketing Mayhem

When I was younger, I was a teddy bear collector. I loved plush bears, but all sorts of accessories with bears on them too. So, I probably would have lost my mind over Build-a-Bear’s “Pay Your Age” promotion — if I’d lived somewhere with the store.

Apparently, I would not have been the only person ready to lose their mind over the marketing ploy. Hundreds of people got in line to take advantage of the sale. Thousands of people received vouchers inviting them to purchase their toy another time. The company’s original July 12 event was so popular they had to call it off.

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“Based on the unprecedented response to our Pay Your Age Day event in our early opening stores, we are experiencing significantly longer than expected lines and large crowds. Local authorities are requiring us to limit the lines and crowds due to safety concerns,” the company stated.

Build-a-Bear stores, usually found in malls but also at tourist attractions in North America and Great Britain, let kids (and kids at heart) create a stuffed animal from scratch. The stuffed toys are not cheap — typically running $20 or more when you add in accessories. So people were excited over the idea of even kids as young as one-year-old being able to get in on the deal.

Build-a-Bear CEO’s Sharon Price John even ended up TODAY doing damage control. “We did see it wind up in social (media), and we did put a notice out for people that we thought the lines could be long, and we worked with the malls, but it was beyond anything we could’ve ever imagined.”

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Birthday Marketing Mayhem

In bringing back the promotion, the company has linked the idea more effectively to birthdays. On your birthday, you can “pay your age” to get a Birthday Treat Bear. The smiling brown bear, which normally costs $14, is available through the new “Count Your Candles” program. 

The kerfuffle was meant to launch the new Birthday Treat Bear, the CEO said. “Because up to one-third of our sales are actually associated with kids’ birthdays. It’s their most special day.

With the new iteration of the promotion, Build-a-Bear joins a long line of retailers marketing birthday-related deals. Based on a blog last month, though, in which a guy wrote to Ms. Manners to complain about embarrassing birthday attention — only ask about the birthday deal if you’re ready for a serenade or having someone else pick your dessert.