There’s one nearly surefire way to get more exposure for your brand: Use logoed apparel. These seven companies are doing so – and getting great results. Here’s how their tactics can work for you.
It is frightening when cracks suddenly appear in the cement in and around your home. The first thought is “Uh-oh, this is going to cost me a small fortune to fix.” There’s not a whole lot to feel good about, unless of course you’re dealing with “The Crack Team.”
Established in 1985 (although franchising didn’t begin until 2004), The Crack Team aims to put a happy face on minor leak and crack work. To do so, they enlisted Mr. Happy Crack. The tongue-in-cheek mascot appears on everything from shirts to magnets to keychains to a sticker placed where the successful project was completed.
Leveraging logoed merchandise has not only helped build the brand; it has helped create loyal customers – customers who will not only call The Crack Team again, but who also will go out of their way to recommend the service to friends and family.
“We’re really the only one in our industry using merchandise as a lead builder,” says CEO Bob Kodner. “We get so much bang for our buck.”
How much” Kodner says sales are up about 60% this year. And consumers aren’t satisfied with the logoed leave-behinds that workers give them. They want more. In fact, the company sells about $500,000 a year in logoed Mr. Happy Crack items at Mrhappycrack.com. Indeed, “A dry crack is a happy crack” thongs, boxer shorts and bottled water are in demand.
You don’t have to be in the cement-fixing business to see the value of using logoed merchandise to build brand loyalty. Providing interested customers with desirable brand reminders “makes a connection. It makes it personal versus a radio or TV ad, especially if they are handed out in person,” says Cody Crittenden, president of Visual Basics Inc., a branding consultancy.
Often consumers will raise their hands to receive free merchandise or regular communications and offers by joining affinity clubs like Crown Royal’s ‘society of the Crown,” Chivas Regal’s “Chivas Circle” or Coca-Cola’s “My Coke Rewards.”
In the U.S. alone, there are 1.32 billion memberships to loyalty and affinity programs. This was up a significant 36% from 2000, according to Colloquy, a loyalty-marketing consultancy.
The average consumer over the course of his or her life joins about a dozen different programs, although only about 40% of consumers are regularly active.
Receiving items from loyalty programs of affinity clubs “provides a sense of status,” says Rick Ferguson, the editorial director of Colloquy. “It can be very effective.”
Even when it comes to frequent flier programs, which have been around since American Airlines launched the first in 1981, there is a sense of belonging by being part of the club. “Just look at the luggage tags,” says Laura Hewitt, senior director of loyalty at Carlson Marketing Group, a major incentive house. “There are platinum, gold and silver ones. I just got my platinum tag. I put it on because I want to look as good as everyone else who has one.”
“You want to provide them with a sense of status,” says Ferguson. “The strongest loyalty programs tend to not only offer something free, but they also let you know you’re important. This way you’re appealing to both the economic and emotional sides of the brain.”
it’s the Life
Whether it’s proudly displaying the Harley-Davidson logo or being an active Saturn car owner, being part of the in-crowd is often part of the fun. For example, the Chivas Circle “is incredibly important for the brand, because it’s more about the Chivas lifestyle than it is the product,” says Dominic Sandifer at TBA Global, which handles the program. “it’s an experience to be shared among friends.” The Chivas Circle has nearly a quarter of a million members.
Once a branded product transcends the product and aligns itself with the consumer’s lifestyle, that’s when the real traction occurs. Just ask Jeremy Soine, brand manager of Redwood Creek wines. Beginning last year, the company introduced a series of print advertisements that featured vintage-style posters featuring scenes from the great outdoors. One reads “Hike the Pass to Redwood Creek.” It shows hikers plotting a path through the mountains.
Taking the campaign a step further, as of February customers could ask to receive posters featuring the ads at Redwood creek.com. From February to July, about 30,000 people entered their information to receive one of eight posters.
“This is advertising that doesn’t necessarily feel like advertising,” says Soine. “We’ve gotten hundreds and hundreds of e-mails and phone calls from people telling us that they’re framing the posters and hanging them up around the home and the office.”
One fan writes: “I wanted to let you know that your free poster campaign is working at this household because my husband and I are in love with your wine. Thanks so much for the lovely posters. You have new fans in the Midwest!”
Soine says the giveaway works “because it combines their passion and enthusiasm for the great outdoors and love of vintage posters. There are a lot of brands that win awards. We”ve won 280. In a crowded category, this allows us to share in our consumers” passion.”
Understanding consumers” wants and needs is essential when selecting what items to give away, says Marc E. Babej, partner, Reason Inc., a marketing consultancy. “It has to be relevant to users. Think about how many of these things you actually use, and how many you throw away. Products and services associated with fun are the ones you’re more likely to keep.”
Make It Personal
The Society of the Crown was created as a family of enthusiasts, or “Royalists,” who enjoy “the ultimate in whiskies.” The Society “celebrates the finer things in life, Crown Royal being one of them, and believes the experience should be shared by all,” per branding materials.
Membership is free, and once enrolled they receive personalized labels, special offers of Crown Royal merchandise, personalized membership certificates, chat rooms and advanced notification of special events.
The brand even has an offer where consumers can have their names embroidered onto the famous purple Crown Royal bag. Hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people have joined.
Why” Perhaps it’s the personal touch the society offers. The more personal, the better, says Dan Hamari, owner of an EmbroidMe franchise.
“We do a lot of real custom personalization,” says Hamari. “One of our customers took his clients to a Nascar race. They each received a bag with a logo and their individual names on it. Of all things the customers received that day, which included going down into the pit, they remembered the bags more than anything.”
For Saturn, it’s about blending its brand into car owners” lives. One of the ways Saturn does it is by providing relevant swag at marathons and running events. It offers logoed support signs used by families and friends to cheer on runners as well as cowbells, which serve as a fun reminder long after the event.
Saturn event teams also hand out running suits bearing the Saturn logo as well as partner Brooks Running’s logo. After the race is over, branded flip-flops are distributed, which is always a crowd pleaser.
“One key objective in Saturn’s event marketing strategy focusing on the running lifestyle is to enhance the participant’s or spectator’s experience,” says Tony Parrottino, Saturn National Events & Promotions Manager. “And we take this philosophy right down to the branded merchandise onsite. For participants, Saturn provides a pre-race stretch zone, with branded first-aid, sunscreen, shoelaces, etc. and those same participants are congratulated right after a race with comfortable Saturn branded flip-flops.”
On the spectator side it offers a branded lounge area where spectators can get real-time updates on runners” progress, check e-mail and of course get more information on Saturn products.
“This relevancy helps build and extend the loyalty Saturn is looking for from its owners,” says Mike Snyder, Carlson Marketing’s Saturn account director.
Whether it’s branded cowbells or flip-flops, Hamari says, “there’s a wow factor if you do something a little bit different. Creativity really helps. I don’t care how jaded you are. If you get a neat thing, you’ll like it and use it.”
You Are What You Give
Fairmont Hotels has a storied history. When John Lennon and Yoko Ono staged their bed-in for peace, it was at the Fairmont in Montreal. When Tony Bennett first crooned that he left his heart in San Francisco, it was at the Fairmont in San Francisco. That’s why it was natural for the chain to create a series of branded CDs.
“Our hotels are known for their bars and lounges. They have been the focal point,” says Mike Taylor, manager of public relations for Fairmont Hotels, Toronto.
Lounging with Fairmont III features covers of “It had to be you,” “Fever” and other standards. Taylor says the discs are often left on V.I.P. guests” beds at turndown, and that they can also be purchased for $14.99.
The real value lies in the fact that “they help communicate what Fairmont is. They take the experience of the hotel and create an emotional connection with the guest that they can take outside of the hotel,” says Taylor.
More than 40,000 CDs have been distributed to date. “They are a low-cost, high-reward type scenario,” says Taylor. “The cost per unit is really low so there’s great value when you look at it at the end of the day.”
Steven Schneidman, president of Solutions Ink, a promotional products distributor, says music can help make inroads with consumers by connecting with them with “an item that is useful.”
Of late, he has found success offering music download cards. The co-branded cards accomplish two things. They allow consumers to select music that will please them, but perhaps more importantly, they allow the client the chance to gather more information about the recipient.
“They go to a site and fill out the information. You get to know your customer a lot better,” says Schneidman.
Collecting data is one of the key benefits of loyalty and affinity clubs. Once someone elects to become a member of the Society of the Crown, they are essentially giving the marketer permission to continue marketing to them across a variety of channels.
The same holds true with the Redwood Creek poster giveaway. Of the 30,000 people who received a Redwood Creek poster, 70% opted in to become part of the Redwood Creek fan club. “We collect consumers’ names and send them a monthly newsletter from our head winemaker,” says Soine. “It tells them what’s going on, whether it’s a new release of a poster, that we’re holding an event or that we’re announcing we won an award.”
Colloquy’s Ferguson says, “You always want to encourage them to provide some data. You want insight into their behavior. If you don’t ask them to do anything, then you’re spending money and not understanding the effect you are achieving.”
He says companies like Best Buy are actually using their Rewards Zone program to “fundamentally change the business.” The retailer is using customer communications to determine store layout, product mix and other essential factors.
Still, offering logoed merchandise to build loyalty doesn’t have to be complex. Sometimes, it’s just about having a sense of humor. “We are just trying to destigmatize the perception people have about our business,” says The Crack Team’s Kodner. “Our experience is once you see our brand, you won’t forget it.”
After the team finishes their work, the company follows up with coupons and scratch-off cards for discounts at Mrhappycrack.com. This helps perpetuate the brand. “Let’s face it, I just had my gutters cleaned and I have no idea what the name of the company who did it was. You’ll see people walking around in Mr. Happy Crack T-shirts. They remember our company.”
Reprinted with permission of Successful Promotions, copyright 2006