Targeting families and gaining their loyalty can be tricky, but e-mail has become an effective tactic to that end. E-mail loyalty programs are the backbone of many brands’ efforts to keep their family audiences engaged in the brand and drive repeat sales among a target that constantly juggles schedules and tastes. The challenge in this competitive landscape is not only to offer the relevant, price-sensitive offers that will appeal to parents and children, but to use the online channel — where most families make their purchase decisions — to accurately capture the pre-established in-person brand experience. ?
Ice cream chain Cold Stone Creamery has grown its Birthday Club e-mail database to about 3.2 million names in the past three years. The chain reaches this audience with birthday offers, as well as monthly ice cream flavor launches and Mother’s Day and Father’s Day special deals. ?
“Moms’ lives are crazy and they are certainly moving more toward the Web,” says Suzanne Schutz, VP of marketing at Cold Stone Creamery. She says that 35% of Cold Stone’s core customer base is women who have children. ?
Cold Stone tracks its coupon offer redemption rates, open rates and clicks to judge the success of what Schutz terms an “extremely engaged fan base for the brand.”?
Families are spending more time online, looking for coupons to use in-store or for price cuts at e-commerce site, as well as interacting with brands through social media. ?
Cold Stone boasts a devout 120,000 followers on its Facebook page, Schutz notes. Her marketing team also surveys its customer base as a way to gauge brand loyalty. ?
Franchisees are also able to segment these names and promote local store events. One very popular event for Cold Stone has been its support for Make-a-Wish Foundation of America: Various affiliates support local Make-a-Wish initiatives. That might include hosting an event to fulfill a sick child’s wish for ice cream in a local store.?
In fact, giving families an experience in the store is one way Cold Stone distinguishes itself. The chain creates customized ice cream flavors for guests on the spot. Guests select toppings that are manually mixed in to the ice cream by chipper employees, who sometimes sing while mixing.?
“The families that come into Cold Stone are very interested in the store experience,” Schutz explains. “They can come out with their children, and it’s a show.”?
Sara Riggsby, director of marketing at fast food chain Moe’s Southwestern Grill, agrees. Her company’s marketing strategy combines in-store experience with a rich touch point strategy in order to maintain its loyal following of families with young children. The brand – which has a signature “Welcome to Moe’s” cheer and cartoon-y names for the kid’s menu items such as Moo Moo Mr. Cow – realized it was not enough to just have kids’ games on placemats in-store. In partnership with agency C3, Moe’s extended its fun and games interaction to a microsite, where kids 12 and under play games and register their birthdates for exclusive offers. ?
“I think kids like the idea of being in an exclusive place,” Riggsby says. The group has gained 17,000 members in a little more than a year without any marketing beyond a link from the homepage and some search engine optimization. ?
In March, Moe’s also tested a text messaging campaign to drive loyalty. “We’re just getting our feet wet when it comes to incorporating mobile, but it’s clearly something that I’m keeping an eye on,” Riggsby notes. ?
Riggsby says while the microsite with games and birthday perks are fun for kids, it also wanted to build trust with parents. It did so through partnerships with local schools and with an annual sponsorship of a JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes. ?
Fun and games are not the only way to attract the attention of families. Alice.com, which launched in beta last month, is aimed at the most mundane family needs: household staples such as toiletries, cleaning supplies and diapers. Most of the marketing has been done through contests on parenting blog sites with Alice.com gift certificate giveaways. The launch of the site, founder Brian Wiegand explains, was a response to the shift in consumer’s buying behavior toward doing more shopping research and making more purchases online. He notes that shipping costs have historically been a significant barrier to families ordering household purchases online, so Alice.com has a no shipping fee policy. ?
“Advertising is changing. No one is listening if you are just saying ‘buy more,'” Wiegand says. ?
Alice.com makes it convenient for buyers to not only purchase staple items direct through the CPG brand manufacturers, but also schedule repeat purchases, sign up for coupon alerts and monitor a budget for staples. Wiegand’s advice for the manufacturers connecting directly with families is to respect that direct connection.?
“Data is the underpinning of the advertising system, but users weren’t getting a lot back for giving it up,” he says. “We take a strong stance: if I’m asking you for data, I’m going to explain why and make sure that you are getting some special offer or relevance back for it.” l
Cold Stone Creamery Birthday Club members have always gotten a special deal on their birthday. This summer, in order to grow more loyalty and brand allegiance, Cold Stone will enable the birthday celebrants to e-mail friends a $3 discount on an ice cream cake in order to remind them of the important date. That is in addition to their regular birthday discount for the individual member. It is the first time since the club’s launch in 2006 that the company has added a significant viral effort to its e-mail marketing. ?
Mini Moe’s, a microsite for kids 12 and under, has gained a lot of traction and popularity for the southwestern chain among children and parents. The site, which lets kids sign up for birthday perks and play a variety of games that expose them to the colorful cast of Moe’s characters and menu items, will get a refresh in the fall. It will include more games and interactive elements in order to extend the brand and encourage in-store visits.?