Creating Brand Awareness Through Presence Marketing
November 2009 Franchising World
Remember to continue to weave your brand personality into everything you do.
By Nick Mavrick
Consider your cup of morning coffee. It takes about three cents worth of beans to make it at home. You pay a dollar or so to have it at your local diner. At Starbucks, you pay about two dollars to four dollars a cup. In 1998, Joseph Pines and James H. Gilmore, a couple of business gurus, published a landmark book, “The Experience Economy,” asserting that Starbucks is so successful because it sells an experience.
Coffee is just a product. People are willing to pay Starbucks two dollars to four dollars for the experience of sitting in a trendy place with cool people and listening to “in” music. Pine and Gilmore convey that America is becoming an experience economy in which all successful businesses must sell an experience²in an economy where we turn our businesses into theatrical stages for an experience to occur.
Theatrics? Stages? How does this apply to your business? Your office, store, company vehicles or salespeople are your stage to engineer the customer experience for your best customers. All you have to do is set the stage to create the experience that the customer is seeking. While this varies from industry to industry, from customer research and human psychology, we all know that best customers desire the experience of being significant, appreciated, liked and important.
A significant advantage of the franchisor-franchisee business model versus the corporately-owned model is the power of local ownership. While a franchisor provides the brand, systems and support to the franchisee, the franchisee has the opportunity and incentive to get involved in the local community and present a humanized image of ownership to local customers. This is a significant differentiator and a Trojan horse weakness of the corporately-owned competition. What can you do to accelerate your franchisees’ successes and your corporate competition’s demise?
Are you assisting your franchisees in doing all that they can to exploit the local ownership advantage, project approachability to their customers and make their customers feel significant, appreciated, liked and important? There are countless books written about human psychology and how to make someone feel important. It is truly important to understand why your franchisees’ “best of the best” customers like your business on an emotional level. Once you can understand why they like you, all you have to do is play their emotional experience back to your customers on the stage that they envision.
Engage the Senses
Pine and Gilmore convey that engaging the customer’s five senses will facilitate your success in making your customers feel significant, appreciated, liked and important. Here are ways you can make sure that every experience is intrinsically sensory by engaging your customers’ five senses:
Sight: Include signs in your franchisee locations that convey flexibility and approachability: “Welcome to the Friendliest Rental Store in Town.”
Sound: Install sound systems inside and outside of your stores, playing your customers’ favorite music. Concentrate on using sound to greet and personally welcome your best customers by name.
Touch: It is still important to shake your customer’s hand every time you meet with them.
Taste and Smell: Employ smell and taste in your franchise by offering free popcorn, coffee, cookies and drinks to customers who visit your locations. Create an inviting environment where customers can sit and rest for a few minutes and re-fuel.
Projecting your brand’s personality can be done inexpensively to assist your franchisees in standing-out from the competition in a crowded marketplace. Successful examples that are widely recognized include Spot the Target dog, the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile, The Apple Computer Store’s Genius Bar, the Coca-Cola polar bear, and the Red Bull Mini Cooper. So how do you help your franchisees get noticed without having them drive a Weinermobile?
Traditional paid advertising is expensive and doesn’t establish a deep emotional connection with a franchisee’s customer-base. You are probably familiar with several examples of your competitors whom have wasted large sums of advertising dollars on mass advertising with very little results to show for it. What if you could garner mass-marketing awareness for your franchisees, without paying for it?
All you have to do is be clever enough to get people talking in your targeted marketplaces²large and small.
Launch a Campaign
One way to project your franchisees’ approachability and your brand in a targeted market is to implement a community non-profit campaign. Conceptualizing a philanthropic initiative and sponsoring it through and through will entice the public to support not only the initiative, but involve them in relationship building via Pine and Gilmore’s experience economy paradigm.
For example, Volvo Rents has created the Volvo Rents Hardhat Comedy Tour as a low-cost marketing initiative to provide our franchise owners with a platform for relationship marketing with their key customers while supporting local philanthropies that are near and dear to their hearts. The 15-plus show tour drives food and monetary donations to local food banks while also providing free comic relief to out-of-work construction contractors and workers and is creating brand awareness for us nationwide. For about $25 per person, our franchise owners get to involve their key customers in something “heart-warming and fun” that makes marketing sense²two hours of relationship building with our key customers and prospects.
Working off the philanthropy mindset, another low-cost-high-impact marketing concept is to take an existing product or service and use it to create brand awareness by donating a portion of proceeds to a specific charity. This is a high-impact example of presence marketing.
An example of such a concept is Volvo Rents’ Color for a Cause campaign. Several of our franchisees have painted large pieces of construction equipment pink to support Breast Cancer Awareness and other major causes including autism, March of Dimes, Operation Thank You (supporting the troops) and many more. The concept is based on a local franchise donating a portion of rental revenues from the pink (or other color) equipment to support breast cancer research (or other philanthropies) on a local and national front.
A philanthropic sponsorship campaign can move others into supporting the cause you team up with. Other ways to get involved on a local level and project your brand personality is to develop a brown-bag initiative. Have customers fill brown bags with canned food for the local food bank or toys for the holiday Toys for Tots program. Request they bring such items to the local franchise, or call the local franchise to have the bag picked up from the customer’s home or business. Campaigns like these encourage interaction with the local franchise while communicating that the brand cares about the community. A successful philanthropic campaign extends beyond a handout.
Your philanthropic message should be included on everything the customer and prospect sees including stationery, business cards, invoices, sales flyers, e-mail signatures, Web pages, musicon-hold and more. Include such tag lines as “We proudly donate a portion of our revenue to support local charities in (city)” on every element of your communication.
There are many other marketing components that can be implemented to establish a presence for your brand in your targeted markets that will help you stand out from your competition:
Let your customers sell for you: T-shirts with your brand-personality message are popular with just about everyone and are a great marketing tool because they’re living, breathing endorsements. Nothing could be better than seeing your branded T-shirts everywhere, but remember that your competitors also have T-shirts. Get creative, and make sure your shirts reflect your friendly and approachable brand personality with a slogan that is engaging to your customers. Go far beyond just putting your logo on apparel. Kids also love T-shirts with your brand personality message. Send clients and customers who are also parents home with a gift for their child, and they will be your friend for life. This is also a way for you to create brand awareness with younger generations and future clients and customers of your products or services.
Project your personality with witty decals: Bumper stickers are effective as conversation starters and let your target audiences know right away that you understand them. Wise or funny sayings (when appropriate) endear your company to clients and customers and reaffirm your approachable brand personality.
Give your delivery trucks brand personality: Turn your delivery trucks into moving billboards with your brand personality slogans, decals, tag lines and store contact information. When your driver arrives at the customer’s location, he will be recognized time and time again. It might even help your drivers to remember your brand personality before they flip a nasty sign to the unfriendly or oblivious person who refuses to let them merge into traffic.
Dress your employees for the part: Apple Computers puts its store employees in “Genius” T-shirts to remind visitors of their promise to provide outstanding technical help. You can also achieve the same awareness when providing your employees with golf shirts, T-shirts and hats that adorn your brand personality slogans. They will be sure to get noticed at the store, on deliveries or out on their lunch break at the local burger joint. This is another way to weave your company’s messaging and brand recognition into every point of contact.
Reinforce the projected personality when they come to you: When customers visit your franchise, give them something to take away such as a free cup of coffee or a bag of popcorn. Some stores expand in-store branding efforts by displaying over-sized family and pet pictures in the store and on Web sites. Others play music outside, so the friendly experience starts before they even hit the door. While the franchisor provides a very professional branding package, the personalization of the store allows the franchisee to distinguish themselves as locally-owned to the customer. Customers are influenced by the store experience, and they remember it.
Reinforce the brand with your gifts: Affirm your brand personality with a gift program that enables your franchisees to send gifts to their best customers. If you are like most companies, your franchisees probably derive more than 70 percent of their revenue and profits from 10 percent of their customers. By making the marketing process to best customers easy, franchisees can use gifts to show how much they appreciate their best customers, and they, in turn, will continue to demonstrate loyalty to your franchisees.
Expressing your brand personality has to be something that works best for you and your franchisees. Together, these components can help you project your own brand personality and make your franchise stand out from the competition. When all of these components work together successfully, a buzz about your brand will sweep through your targeted markets. To maximize the effectiveness of your marketing presence in each market, you must remember to continue to weave your brand personality into everything you do.
Nick Mavrick is vice president of marketing for Volvo Rents. He can be reached at email@example.com .