Category Archives: Consumer Behavior

Consumer Behavior

The confluence of technological innovation and economic circumstance is resulting in the greatest shift in consumer behavior in decades. Smart brands do more than recognize the changes; smart brands embrace them.

A Smashing Success: PR Case Study

For the past year and a half, several of us at Riggs Partners have immersed ourselves in the “better burger” fast casual segment of the restaurant industry. Through our work with two separate franchise owners, we’ve helped to open the first three South Carolina locations of Smashburger, one of the fastest growing restaurant chains in the nation. Smashburger’s corporate office in Denver places a strong emphasis on public relations with limited paid advertising supplementing the marketing effort.

Smashburger grand openings follow a formula established by their corporate marketing team. This tried and true plan has guided the company through more than 240 store openings in the US and several international markets. Our grand openings include four private events before the public opening: a “Friends and Family” preview event for the franchisees’ closest friends, associates and vendors; a media event for the “ceremonial first smash” with a local celebrity; a VIP event for local dignitaries; and an “Eat and Tweet” for local food bloggers and online influencers.

For each store opening, Smashburger’s franchise owners have partnered with a local charitable organization in their respective markets. In Columbia, the partner is Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Columbia. In Charleston, the partner is the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) Children’s Hospital Fund. Our clients don’t just want to write a check; they want to have a long-term, ongoing relationship with these organizations that make a meaningful impact on the lives of children. For each of the first store openings in the Columbia and Charleston markets, the respective franchise owners agreed to donate $1 per Smashburger or Smashchicken sandwich sold during their grand opening month to their charitable partner, with a minimum commitment of $5,000.

One traditional component of a Smashburger grand opening is the “celebrity smasher.” For both Columbia and Charleston, the charitable angle opened the door to a wonderful tie-in for the celebrity smashers. In Columbia, we invited two pairs of “Bigs” and “Littles” with Big Brothers Big Sisters to be our smashers. A Big Brother/Little Brother pair and a Big Sister/Little Sister pair served as our smashers, which was the first time that children had served as celebrity smashers at any Smashburger. In Charleston, we invited a 13 year-old girl with a very rare disease who has been treated at MUSC throughout her life. She smashed burgers alongside the Mayor of Summerville, who just so happened to have worked as a short order cook one summer as a teenager. It was fun to see them in the kitchen smashing the store’s first official burgers together.

Hayden, age 13, smashes the Summerville store's first burger.

Hayden, age 13, smashes the Summerville store’s first burger as her mother Cindy looks on.

Each of the grand openings has been a “smashing” success with terrific media coverage and a smoothly executed series of events that brought hundreds of guests through each store during their preview events. The two Columbia stores combined have raised more than $10,000 for Big Brothers Big Sisters, while the Summerville store raised $8,147 for MUSC Children’s Hospital as a result of the overwhelming sales in its first month.

"Bigs" and "Littles" from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Columbia teamed up to smash the Irmo store's first official burgers.

“Bigs” and “Littles” from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Columbia teamed up to smash the Irmo store’s first official burgers.

Some of the lessons we’ve learned during these retail grand openings include:

  • Practice makes perfect. Have a “dress rehearsal” to iron out the kinks beforehand.
  • Get local. Find a charitable partner or some other community tie-in.
  • Focus on quality over quantity. Packing hundreds of guests into the restaurant may build curiosity from the outside, but we’d prefer that guests enjoy a leisurely paced meal and an overall great experience.
  • Make it fun. Be sure that guests aren’t just treated to free food, but also enjoy a festive atmosphere. We’ve hired balloon artists, ordered fun promotional items and given out coupons for repeat visits.
  • Build ambassadors. By pulling back the curtain into the store’s menu and operations, we’ve secured a great deal of goodwill for the restaurant and its owners.
  • Evaluate. Always take time to do a “post mortem” meeting during which you discuss what worked, what didn’t and how you can improve next time.

While Riggs Partners has developed a strong reputation through the years for our work in the nonprofit sector, we find just as much reward when we work with business owners who have a deeper sense of purpose – something that motivates them to develop and deliver upon a mission that may or may not be obvious to their customers. The next time you bite into that burger or slurp that shake, keep in mind that you just might be helping someone in need.

A Little Reassurance

The fear of regret is a powerful driver of indecision.

As such, marketing ends up spending a large portion of its time at the entryways to brand funnels, asking would-be passers-through to keep focused on potential up-sides instead of potential down-sides.

But the fear of regret continues well past the end of the funnel. “Did I really make the right choice?” With all the noise, opinions, opportunities, and options, it’s easy for consumers to doubt, and easier still for them to switch.

So, smart brands are finding ways to keep in touch. It can be anything. Most often, the more personal and permanent, the better.

The Bathroom Minutes - A Dollar Shave Club Production

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making PR Magic

While much of the nation was under snow last week, I had the fortune of spending the week in beautiful and sunny Orlando, Florida attending the PRConsultants Group conference, our annual gathering of senior-level PR professionals from around the country.

When we originally booked our conference hotel within the Walt Disney World Resort Area last year, we were told that they would be in the process of converting from the Royal Plaza Hotel to a new property, the B Resort. Renovations were expected to be completed by the time our group arrived, but as anyone who has ever built or renovated their home knows, construction doesn’t always happen on our personal timelines. As our conference approached, it became evident that they were a bit behind schedule. (The hotel is now slated for a grand opening in the summer of 2014.)

Since it would have been terribly difficult to find another location to suit the needs of our group on such short notice, the hotel agreed to accommodate us, with the understanding that they were in “soft opening” mode. You had to feel for them. They had potentially the worst set of critics around – a group full of outspoken PR people with extensive experience in event management and logistics, and national media contacts to boot.

What began as tempered expectations were quickly turned around and sustained throughout our stay by a staff that was committed to exceptional customer service and hospitality. From the moment each guest arrived to the moment we left, the staff went above and beyond to make us feel extra special. They were friendly, welcoming and accommodating. Their willingness to solve problems and to find quick resolutions to minor inconveniences demonstrated not only a customer-focused culture, but also a leadership team that empowered their employees to pursue any idea or remedy that would make our stay better.

Here are just a few examples of how they ensured that we had an experience that we would be proud to share:

  • Their culinary staff served a cooked-to-order breakfast and provided complimentary snacks, including custom-designed cookies.
  • They ordered and assembled stylish furniture for the lobby so that we would have somewhere to congregate in the evenings.
  • They arranged with nearby hotels for the use of pools and fitness rooms.
  • When winter weather along the east coast threatened some guests’ travel plans, they offered to accommodate anyone impacted by canceled flights.
  • When a staff member overheard one of our members lamenting a sore throat, he prepared a special, soothing “homemade recipe” with cucumbers and tonic water.
  • Minor maintenance issues were resolved within minutes, including one repairman who provided a guest with his name and personal extension in the case of further concerns.
  • Most notably, the general manager asked us to serve as a “test guest group” and report to him directly any suggestions that would be helpful for future travelers. It made us feel that our opinions mattered, and gave us the satisfaction of knowing that our input would help future hotel guests have an even better experience than we did.

In the end, this property created 40 ambassadors who came away feeling impressed, relaxed, pampered and appreciated. The PR value was immeasurable. The cost of making it right was priceless.

In a culture that is so resigned to bad customer service, shouldn’t we all shine the spotlight on those who go above and beyond? Share your stories of great customer service in the comments section below!

In Pursuit of Purpose

We had to see it coming: Aaron Hurst, founder of Taproot Foundation and the guru of the pro bono movement, has moved beyond inspiring us to share our professional skills as a means to social good to building an entire economic sector around doing work that matters.

Aaron’s new gig is CEO of Imperative, a cadre of social entrepreneurs, product developers, economists and all-around brilliant creative minds. They’re on a mission to create a fully functioning Purpose Economy by 2020. The bottom line? Helping people and organizations uncover, activate, and monetize work that leaves a mark on this world — and making a good living doing it.

I got a preview of this big fat idea last winter, when I attended the first-ever Global Pro Bono Summit, hosted in NYC by Taproot. Our last exercise was to figure out – in 15 minutes, no less — how to transform the pro bono marketplace into a $20 billion economy by 2020. We burned up some post-it notes on that, let me tell you.

Those close to Aaron knew he was already at work on the Purpose Economy, writing a book while making the transition to Imperative. Ever watchful for news of the book release, I noted the announcement by Imperative just this past week of the Purpose 100, a compilation of people throughout the world who are deemed to be “transforming our innate need for meaning into the organizing principle for innovation and growth in the American economy.”

In a culture obsessed with the “awards season,” it’s refreshing to see people recognized for their bravery, creativity and tenacity in pursuing something larger than themselves.

I encourage you to spend a few moments with this list and consider the ways in which these remarkable human beings have channeled the talents, experiences and relationships they’ve cultivated in their lives into a force for good.

Then get out a sheet of paper and start looking for your purpose. It’s there, just under the surface, waiting for you.

Turning Oh No! to Oh Yes!

Caravan is an online store that brings its customers very swell digital artwork downloads at very reasonable prices. It’s the brainchild of Alma and Mike Loveland, and Melanie Burke, art director/designer types who get great joy from making (and sharing) beautiful things. And it shows.

They’re also very smart marketers. Take this morning’s email, for instance.

 

 

Caravan turned a tough couple of days into serious customer goodwill with this fabulous giveaway targeted to the very customers who experienced the frustration of technical issues. They no doubt recovered some purchases that were long gone, and they offered a wonderful promotion to subscribers who may not have even been aware of the server overload in the first place.

What a great lesson in recovery marketing. Bravo to them.

NOTE: Don’t you want this fun Draw Together Thanksgiving set for your family table? There is so much to love at Caravan!