If I told you that you could create a successful marketing campaign that didn’t utilize digital channels, that cost almost nothing, and could stay the same for years, you probably wouldn’t believe me. Dublins, a small pub in Isla Vista, CA (the college town adjacent to UC Santa Barbara), has created a sustainable and profitable marketing strategy doing just that.
During spring quarter every year (roughly April-June), Dublins let’s students join a loyalty program. It’s really simple: students get a paper punch card and if they come in 40 separate times during the 10-week quarter and buy at least one drink each visit, the bar will put their name on a small plaque on the wall at the end of the school year, honoring them as a member of the “Dubs Club.” This spring promotion takes the bar from having a few regulars to being absolutely packed at almost all hours of the day and night. While their strategy may seem too simple to actually be effective, it utilizes several key strategies that make it extremely successful. Here’s what your company can learn from their success:
Stay On Brand
If you were to visit Dublins, you would see that it is a pretty standard college bar. There are several pool tables, the lighting is dim, the leather seats are slightly worn, and the decorations look like they haven’t been changed since it opened. Like other bars, it is a place where people socialize, chat, and drink. This is why it makes complete sense for Dublins to market Dubs Club through word of mouth–most often while the customer is buying a drink. The bar’s appearance is simple and the vibe is social, so this method of advertisement works seamlessly with their existing brand.
Now, don’t think this means you shouldn’t utilize social media in your marketing. This is merely a lesson in understanding your brand. It wouldn’t make sense for Apple to put your name on a plaque if you bought 40 computers, the same way it wouldn’t make sense for Dublins to advertise at the Super Bowl. Pay attention to how customers see your company and market to them in a way that is consistent with whatever you are trying to sell or promote.
Timing is Everything
Spring quarter is always an exciting time for graduating seniors because it is the last hurrah. Students usually plan in advance for ‘senioritis’ by taking fewer classes to allot more time to enjoy their final weeks. Since bars are a place where people can relax and enjoy time together, spring quarter is the perfect time to encourage students to come and have a drink or two. If Dublins were to try this strategy during fall quarter, there’s no way it would’ve worked. Fall quarter is a time when students are more motivated and focused on preparing for final graduation requirements, so going to drink 40 times in 10 weeks would seem completely out of the question.
According to this CBS article on success, “good timing can turn a mediocre product into a breakout success.” Pay attention to your audience and what affects them. Oftentimes, holidays, seasons, current events, or even days of the week can have a large impact on your customer’s’ buying habits. The more you can keep track of these patterns and trends, the more you can use them to your advantage.
Appeal to Emotions
In addition to the carefree attitude spring quarter brings, it also brings feelings of nostalgia, possibly denial, and knowledge that things are about to change. This is where the plaque comes in. A relatively inexpensive gift on Dublin’s part, the plaque awards graduating seniors with an opportunity to feel as if they have left their mark on campus. It symbolizes their last quarter at University, and is something they can always come back to. The plaque is desired not because of its value, but because it gives the students exactly what they want right when they need it (see: timing is everything).
Think about how your marketing or sales strategy can solve some emotional need for your customer. While emotions don’t have to be the driving factor, it is useful to consider how you may be able to reach past a customer’s pockets and into their hearts. This will drive loyalty, which will keep your customers coming back.
Create a Community
A BigSpeak article about selling to millennial consumers points out that a big part of selling to millennials is creating an experience. Dublins does this by making the marathon to graduation an experience that seniors feel they can all experience together. They make it seem like getting to 40 visits is a game or goal that students can work towards as a group, as they all want to be eternally commemorated as part of the Dubs Club. Even the name ‘Dubs Club’ works in their favor, as it is short, catchy, and makes bar goers all feel as if they are part an exclusive group.
No matter what you are selling, make sure your customers have a genuine experience. Even better, give your customers a reason to feel like they are part of a community and give them something about your company or product that they can talk about. Whether this be through good PR, by emphasizing the benefits that the customer receives from choosing your product, or even by giving your customer base a catchy name, customers will feel a connection to your company beyond their credit cards.
Utilize Social Proof
Social Proof, one of Robert Cialdini’s 6 principles of persuasion, is incredibly effective when used strategically. When Dublins rewards it’s 40-visit customers in mid-June by putting their name on the wall, they are giving them the gift of recognition, but are also harvesting social proof for the next spring quarter. When younger students see the names of their recently graduated friends up on those walls, it motivates them to want to get their names up there too.
Use your existing customers to find new leads without directly asking them to. This is where things like rewards for referring friends, features on social media, or even company merchandise can really come in handy. When people see other people that they know doing something or buying something, it reduces their uncertainty about doing it themselves.
Take an Idea That Already Works and Spin It
Loyalty programs are used by many companies and are very effective. According to a survey by Technology Advice, consumers are over 80% more likely to shop at stores that offer loyalty programs. Dublins strategy is essentially just another loyalty program, but they spin it so that it seems like a club or an ongoing event. By taking the basic structure of something that they knew would work and adding their own flair, Dublins was able to develop a strategy that went beyond what other companies were already doing.
By copying exactly what your competitors do, your company won’t be able to do more than catch up to them. In order to leave them in the dust, you have to have something more to offer than a baseline strategy. Try identifying strategies that have worked well for your competitors and adding some kind of spin or fresh idea that will give it an edge over the original strategy. Your customers will admire your innovation. Check out this article on innovation to learn some strategies that will help you increase the rate of new idea generation in your company.
Your company needs to understand its customers. Pay attention to their needs, how they interact with your product, and what affects them then create innovative ideas that fit your knowledge of the customer base. By learning about your customers, you learn how to create a successful marketing or sales strategy.