Which CMOs Are Spreading The ‘Customer Love’ In 2016?

Meet six top marketers, from Church’s Chicken to Chili’s Grill & Bar, who are thinking about their customers in a way that would make St. Valentine proud.

Which CMOs Are Spreading The ‘Customer Love’ In 2016?

Love is in the air this month, and Valentine’s Day, of course, is likely responsible. Much about the genesis of the holiday, and even who this St. Valentine was, is lost in the fog of time. One legend has it he was a priest in third century Rome who helped soldiers get married; another tells the tale of the imprisoned Valentine who, having fallen in love with his jailer’s daughter, sent her a letter signed, “From your Valentine,” a phrase used to this day.

What does any of this have to do with marketing? Well, it got me wondering just how many CMOs are thinking about their customers in a way that would make whichever St. Valentine you ascribe to proud.

So I spent several weeks asking CMOs across North America, “How are you showing customer love this year?” It may be easy for an individual salesperson or VP of customer service to answer this question—but what about a CMO?

These six examples should spark some fresh ideas for your customer appreciation and branding programs in 2016. The results show how customers reward brands handsomely for the caring, memorable experiences they create.

Know Your Customer Rhythms

For more than 64 years, Church’s Chicken quick service restaurants have served customers in 1,650-plus locations globally. CMO Mark Snyder said he believes that “while it’s great to have a brand with such a rich history, the primary objective of any legacy brand is how do you attract and retain younger consumers? It’s surely not the same way you attracted their parents and grandparents. With so many messages coming at customers each second of the day, interesting and relevant content is key.”

Church’s wanted to reach a new audience: young men ages 18 to 34. They discovered this demographic gravitated toward competitive and achievement-based content. Snyder noticed that, for this age group, “It’s about individuals pushing themselves to reach their full potential.” That’s when Snyder’s marketers teamed with About Face Media and sponsored the “World’s Fastest Drummer”docu-series on YouTube.

The series generated 5 million views and 18 million impressions, a 12% sales increase in a single weekend in Atlanta during the regional competition, and an 18% sales lift in Nashville during the finals.

Hail CABs To Drive Uber-Loyalty

You don’t need to be a billion-dollar behemoth to show customer love. RES, a digital workspace enablement company with 300 employees, has mastered the art of Customer Advisory Boards (CABs). (Disclosure: RES is an EnergizeGrowth client.)

CMO Tracey Mustacchio said she views the small, intimate RES CAB “as a sounding board for our leadership team to learn from and better understand our customers. The focus is not on our company updates but rather on the customers sharing their challenges, successes, and future plans. We compare our CAB to hosting a party. RES is the host and needs to get the party started. But like all good parties, the host could leave and the party would still go on.”

RES CABs help drive impressive results. Fifty-seven percent of attendees purchased more products from RES in the second half of 2015 and contributed to their 29% year-over-year growth. One recent event single handedly helped increase their reference accounts by 15%.

Climb For A Cause With Integrated Marketing

Mammoth Resorts’ CMO, Erik Forsell, recognizes that “cancer is something that has affected most all of us.” This inspired his organization to partner with Stand Up To Cancer (Su2C) for its second #MammothBeanie campaign.

The #MammothBeanie campaign built a robust community experience across multiple platforms to raise cancer awareness. Coupled with the executive team’s on-site visits to a children’s hospital in Los Angelesto distribute beanies to patients , Forsell’s team deployed several online strategies.

“On your drive to Mammoth on Highway 395, you first encounter the 15-foot tall, 20-foot wide 3-D beanie billboard. On your Mammoth Mobile App, you can upload a photo to the ‘Beanie Genie’ and add beanies to your social media shares,” he explained. “When you follow us on social media, you hear where the next “#MammothBeanie Drop” will happen to get your free beanie. Our guests are continually excited, and they, in turn, become our brand ambassadors.”

This season, Forsell and the team intend to sell at least 20,000 beanies; they are halfway to that goal. Fans have shared more than 1,000 photos shared using the #mammothbeanie hashtag. Forsell’s organization also earned the National Ski Area Association’s “Best Overall Marketing Campaign.”

Celebrate Customer Holidays

Andrew Dixon, Igloo Software’s SVP of marketing and operations, and his team recognize the value of celebration. This Deloitte Fast 50 Canadian software firm launched a series of programs on Jan. 25 to honor community managers, dubbing it Community Manager Appreciation Day (CMAD).

“Although our customer contacts may not always carry the title ‘community manager,’ we think anyone who spends their days connecting people to the information they need to do their best work deserves the title,” Dixon stated. “The messaging is meant to recognize all the great work they do.”

Dixon’s team developed a CMAD microsite, blog series, and social media outreach content calendar. The content mix included a quiz, manifesto, product demonstrations, and tips about community engagement.

The CMAD program reflects and showcases the company’s strong customer connections with Aetna, Ogilvy, Top Golf, and numerous small to midsize businesses. Dixon shared that “the industry average for annual contract renewals in the SMB market is 50%. Our average is 75%. The industry average for deal renewals for larger enterprise is 90%; ours is 92%.”

Passionately Promote Prereleases

Customers love to feel like they belong to the “insider’s club.” GameStop, a specialty electronics retailer, considers its passionate associates and prerelease programs key competitive differentiators that help them win gamer loyalty.

CMO Frank Hamlin said he believes that its messaging “needs to reflect the unique, almost clubbish experience that occurs in our stores. When we partnered with The Richards Group on the ‘We’re All Players’ program, we found a way to talk about the unique aspects of our publisher partners’ new title releases.”

GameStop wants to be known as offering the best preorder exclusives in the industry. It designed its retail stores to be the local epicenter where core gamers and customers can create their own storylines in imaginative worlds with imaginative characters. The “Players” program portrays GameStop associates as knowledgeable, sometimes irreverent gamers—some who admit they would work for free if the company would pay them in video games.

Since launching the campaign in 2015, GameStop’s holiday sales increased 1.8% to $2.99 billion. Combined, new PS4 and Xbox One software (which were featured in the TV spots) sales increased 38% compared with the prior year holiday period.

Tantalize With Tablets

In late 2014, Tech Times reported that the number of active mobile devices around the globe had surpassed the global human population. Chili’s Grill & Bar noticed this trend well before the study hit the media. By 2013, it realized it needed to think differently about guest engagement. CMO Krista Gibson and her team began collaborating with Ziosk to serve up an entirely new digital guest experience across 30 countries.

Gibson told me that “being able to allow our guests to effortlessly interact and transact with Chili’s is really what the digital guest experience is all about. This focus has been the reason that we’re a first-mover on guest-centric technologies and personalization in the casual dining space.” Today, Chili’s provides more than 70,000 tablets on their tables, and 75% of guests choose to pay for their meals on them. Gibson said she is proud that “tabletop technology complements the fun and personal dining experience Chili’s is known for, while putting the convenience and control of on-demand ordering, entertainment and payment all at the guests’ fingertips.”

In 2016, Chili’s customer experience will expand to include its robust rewards loyalty program, online ordering, and mobile payment features. Twenty-five percent of guests complete surveys at the end of their meal, which helps Chili’s continuously improve the dining experience.

With programs like these, your twitterpated customers will feel like it’s Valentines Day throughout the year.