Digital Communities Prove to Be Kicking Horse Coffee's Magic Bean

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The coffee brand relies on existing followers and subscribers to promote its product, drive engagement, and grow its customer database.

All marketers want more customers. Relying on existing communities can help them bring new people into the fold.

Canadian coffee brand Kicking Horse Coffee proved this to be true when it increased its fans, engagement, and customer database by promoting its product to its subscribers and established digital communities.

A whole new flavor

Based in Canada, Kicking Horse Coffee has primarily sold whole-bean products. The brand's director of marketing, Antonella Sacconi, wanted to find ways to expand its presence into other markets and boost awareness around its ground coffee offerings.

But achieving these goals wasn't going to be easy—especially considering the brand's shoestring budget. “We really don't have big CPG budgets to do TV advertisement, out-of-home, or radio announcements,” Sacconi says.

As a result, Sacconi decided to launch a campaign centered on its more affordable digital channels—including email, social, and Web—and target its established communities there.

A taste of technology

Kicking Horse Coffee has a lean staff in addition to a lean budget, so Sacconi decided to hire a vendor that specializes in digital and social marketing. The company started working with marketing platform provider Tagga this past April.

The platform, according to Sacconi, consolidates all of Kicking Horse Coffee's customer data from its communities—including their email addresses, demographic and behavioral data, and public Facebook information—and presents a single view of the customer through a dashboard. As Kicking Horse Coffee builds up its communities, it can add more data, build profiles, and segment its communities to create more relevant experiences. So, growing its communities became a major campaign objective.

“The beauty of this platform is you're not just throwing something and hoping [that it's] going to stick,” Sacconi says. “You're actually doing customized and personalized [marketing], so you have a better use of your time [and] of your dollars.”

A filtered focus

To expand its communities and database, Sacconi decided to focus on Kicking Horse Coffee's subscribers. And to get a better feel for Tagga's platform, she opted to open the campaign only to Canadian consumers first.

“Before you learn how to walk, you need to learn how to crawl,” she says.

The campaign, which launched in June, invited consumers to enter a sweepstakes for the chance to win a full year of ground coffee. To enter the contest, consumers had to provide their email addresses and acknowledge that they were of legal age to participate. When providing this information, consumers also had the opportunity to opt in to the company's e-newsletter; however, Sacconi notes that this was not mandatory to participate in the sweepstakes because the primary goal was to drive awareness for its ground coffee products.

“We don't force people into being in our database [by] being penalized and not being able to be part of the campaign,” she says.

As for promoting the initiative, Kicking Horse Coffee relied on its email newsletter, website ads, and promoted posts that targeted consumers based on their demographic and psychographic information.

A cup of success

After running the campaign over four weeks, Kicking Horse Coffee brewed up some strong results. According to Sacconi, nearly 7,000 people entered the contest, and the brand grew its Facebook fan base from 9,000 to more than 10,500 followers. It also doubled its email newsletter subscribers and experienced a 50% open rate, as well as a 60% click-through rate.

“In the scheme of things, this was a very, very successful campaign,” Sacconi says. “The engagement was fantastic.”

And Kicking Horse Coffee is thirsty for more success. As for future endeavors, Sacconi says she'd like to sustain the brand's engagement, continue to increase its fan base, and better manage its communications. One way she intends to achieve these objectives is by leveraging the brand's newsletter more strategically, such as by sending blasts for its campaigns and promotions, as well as by providing unique value for customers and ambassadors. However, she promises to not spam her customers.

“An opt-in to our e-newsletter is a privilege,” she says, “and we plan to communicate with our fans wisely.”

In addition to producing tangible results and future inspiration, the campaign taught Sacconi valuable lessons, including the importance of working with specialized partners when lacking expertise and having fun. “[Campaigns are] obviously about return on investment,” she says, “but it's also about building genuine relationships with your consumers.... Focus on ROI, but don't put aside that human side of having fun and really being genuine about what you're trying to communicate to your fans, consumers, and partners.”

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