Is “Reciprocity Marketing” the Ultimate Therapy for Brands?

An illustration of two shaking hands over the word Bienvenidos

The other day I was in the locker room at my health club when one of the masseuses from the club’s spa approached.  She is someone I’ve had treatments with in the past, and she said, “Are you looking forward to Member Appreciation Week next week?”  Being polite, I of course said that I was.  She went on, “It’s great because all of the spa services are 20% off.”  I smiled and nodded.  Then she leaned closer, looked me straight in the eye and said, “You know, business has been incredibly slow and I’d really appreciate it if you would consider booking an appointment with me.”  I was flabbergasted. I was uncomfortable. I felt guilty. I felt a surge of compassion.  And then I rushed to the appointment desk and booked an hour massage with my errant messenger/promoter.  I felt as though I had just done a good deed, not purchased a spa service.

Am I a lone sucker or did I stumble upon empathy marketing on steroids?

So here’s how I imagine it might work.  Instead of simply trying to engage with customers by walking a mile in their shoes and then selling them air soles (aka empathy marketing), you blur the hard lines between peddler and buyer, making the sale by explaining that the profits you enjoy will help pay your child’s college tuition or your elderly mother’s medical bills.

Huh? Does this really make sense?

Clearly, the challenge with “reciprocity marketing” is that it requires authentically interdependent peer relationships.  For example, what do YOU give back when you buddy up and get someone to buy the air soles? Is there a quid pro quo factor that grants the air sole buyer a chit, redeemable at some time in the future, for a good deed or other consideration, from you?  Is it preposterous to imagine a marketplace where a buyer has the right to come back to a seller and ask for something in return?

How would “reciprocity marketing” work with consumer products? Houses? Consulting services?  Would we spawn an industry of good deed couponing and redemption?

Home Photo Credit: Handshake