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Did Vail Resorts “Cry Wolf” With This Year’s EpicPass Headlines and Deadlines?

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The boy who cried wolf. You heard it from your parents as a child and probably have used it at one point or another to get your point across to someone else. The idea is simple:

The more what you say doesn’t match what you do, the less I’ll believe you.

When Borders closed in Logan, UT, my wife and I made guesses as to how low the giant “last chance, 30% off” signs in the window would get before they finally closed. I said 60%, she said 80%. She was right. We don’t take those signs seriously because we’ve seen them “cry wolf” so many times before.

The Balance
The thing is, marketers use deadlines because they work. On an 8 week season pass promotion an average of only 5% of the sales come the first week compared to 54% during the week leading up to the deadline.

The trick is, however, to not “cry wolf”. If the different between the pass you are telling me to “hurry and buy today” isn’t different enough from the pass I could buy tomorrow, I will quickly start lose trust in you and your marketing.

This year’s EpicPass promotion was one I followed very closely from the beginning. Four deadlines, one that was extended, over the course of 4+ months. There is a lot to discuss in terms of how benefits were used, but I want to focus on the price today.

From day one, the same phrase was used in the copy to push each deadline: buy now for the “lowest guaranteed price”.

A subtle blend of urgency and vagueness, the intended meaning was “this price is going to go up” but it left the door wide open to keep the price as is for as long as they wanted. No biggie right? The price stayed the same through four deadlines that used this wording, so why is that an issue?

Because on the September 3 deadline, it also said, “lowest guaranteed price”. But on September 4 it wasn’t $659 anymore.

Big Enough
If I cry wolf and you hurry to my aid only to find a stuffed animal, what I said is true but it hurts the meaning of me “crying wolf” in the future.

In this case, after 4+ months of shouting “lowest guaranteed price” from the rooftops, the price only went up $20. That’s nothing, less than 3% of the original price. Even my old, home hill Beaver Mountain who raises the price 7 times each summer, increases the cost $35 each time which is more than 11% of the original figure.

What I think happened here is a case of “deadlines that cried wolf”. “Lowest guaranteed price” didn’t mean anything over 4 deadlines, and when it finally did mean something, it meant so little that missing the deadline wouldn’t have mattered much at all.

With Great Power Comes…
Deadlines are powerful tools, but with great power comes great responsibility. If we abuse them to the point that they carry little or no meaning, we’ve dulled one of the sharpest tools in the shed with no easy way to get it sharp again.

About Gregg & SlopeFillers
I've had more first-time visitors lately, so adding a quick "about" section. I started SlopeFillers in 2010 with the simple goal of sharing great resort marketing strategies. Today I run marketing for resort ecommerce and CRM provider Inntopia, my home mountain is the lovely Nordic Valley, and my favorite marketing campaign remains the Ski Utah TV show that sold me on skiing as a kid in the 90s.

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