Pham holding lucky red envelopes for Chinese New Year 2013This year, Chinese New Year celebrations started yesterday. In some parts of the world, today is an official holiday as well. So Gong Xi Fa Cai to you and yours in this Year of the Snake.

If you have heard of, or are familiar with, the practice of “finding hooks” for your public relations efforts, then you’ll know that trying to play off holidays and popular celebrations is one such hook (when appropriate).

However, in addition to sometimes working as a great way of getting your story out, this can also be a very good customer appreciation (and, therefore, customer retention) practice.

Of ao dais and red envelopes

This past weekend, my best friend was visiting. So after a day of doing this and that, we went down to my local nail salon to pamper ourselves, girl style. Seeing as how it was a Saturday afternoon, and the weather wasn’t too abysmal, there were quite a few people in there. But what I didn’t expect to see was every single female technician wearing the ao dai (the traditional Vietnamese dress, which is absolutely stunning). They took my breath away, and I couldn’t help but wonder why.

As if he’d read my mind, the manager came up to me and held out a basket full of Chinese red envelopes, inviting me (and everyone else who was waiting) to take one.

Alin and colleagues dressed in traditional Vietnamese ao daisApparently it was the salon’s second anniversary in that location. Seeing as how Chinese New Year celebrations would be starting anyway the next day, they decided to add a little flair to the salon that day by dressing up. And what was in the little red envelopes (the kind that, for Chinese New Year, typically hold coins)? Lottery tickets.

Small investment, big payoff

Yes, they gave away at least one lottery ticket to everyone who entered the salon yesterday, and I imagine there were at least a few families (mother/daughter) who walked away with more than one.

So in one fell swoop, the nail salon made a humdrum winter’s afternoon a little more fun for everyone who stopped by. They paid homage to their heritage and business success in one go, and with a minimal investment, said “thank you” to their customers while also potentially being the reason a new millionaire (or billionaire) might emerge.

Even if you’re not a “numbers person,” the math is pretty easy to do:

  • The salon is open nine hours a day, on average, so that’s 540 minutes a day, seven days a week
  • The average mani-pedi at this place takes about 45 minutes, so that’s 12 mani-pedis per day, per technician (assuming all technicians are providing mani-pedis and nothing else, which is not the case, but we’re being conservative)
  • There are at least 10 technicians at the spa, so that’s a conservative average of 120 mani-pedis a day for the salon
  • Let’s assume $45 per mani-pedi (though you’d spend more if you were getting a spa pedicure, for example, but again, let’s be conservative)

So if the salon only offers mani-pedis and is full from open to close, seven days a week, it’s pulling in $5,400 per week, just on mani-pedis. Of course, it’s not necessarily full from open to close, there aren’t always 10 technicians there, and it offers more than just mani-pedis. But instead of trying to estimate the cost of other services, etc., let’s just stick with the $5,400 number… it’s probably on the low end, but let’s stick with it.

Let’s assume $1 per lottery ticket (Mega Millions) and $0.25 per envelope (they’re cheaper, but it’s cleaner math assuming a quarter instead of a dime). So if they bought 200 tickets/envelopes, that’s $250 spent on a customer promotion (over and above their regular expenses).

Just an extra $250 to put a smile on a lot of customers’ faces, and keep them coming back, when the salon probably makes more than 20 times that just in a week.


Consistently good service + finding a creative hook for the customer experience = smart public relations. And I bet the salon didn’t even think it was engaging in “PR”… but it was.

Like I said before: genius.

Have you seen businesses use hooks in creative ways to generate goodwill for themselves? Conversely, have you seen such efforts backfire? Which ones? What other public relations tips can you give small businesses? Do share your smarts!