Valerie Kinney first became immersed in franchising in 2003 when she joined Auntie Anne's Pretzels. In September 2014, she became a regional marketing manager at CertaPro Painters and recently was promoted to vice president of marketing. And while she'll be the first to tell you that her favorite paint color is Sherwin-Williams' Fun Yellow (SW 6908), she's also thrilled to share some insights on the realities of franchising, how CertaPro fosters collaboration with its franchisees, and recent examples of the brand staying relevant with marketing strategies.
CMOO: Before joining CertaPro Painters, you were at Auntie Anne's. Can you tell us about your transition from a food retail brand to a home service brand?
Kinney: First off, I can't eat paint, so my waistline is thanking me every day! The customer journey, price point, and purchase frequency are a few examples of differences I've experienced during my transition. At the end of the day, the foundational aspect of what we are all trying to achieve with marketing is the same: consistently engage with prospective, current, and previous customers in meaningful ways and deliver on your differentiating brand elements. This, in turn, further cements a relationship with them that you can't take for granted... ever.
CMOO: What has been one of the biggest marketing challenges you've tackled since you came on board at CertaPro?
Kinney: CertaPro Painters is a well-oiled machine with a fierce entrepreneurial spirit that drives our thirst for continuous improvement. As in any franchise organization, marketing adoption at the local level is a steady process. I've worked on ensuring I have my local business owner/franchisee hat on when working side-by-side with them on developing marketing strategies. While it's not intentional, franchisors can sometimes become disconnected from the day-to-day operations of a franchisee's business. Therefore, it's important to think through the realities being faced and work collaboratively with franchisees to design and implement marketing strategies that will best advance the brand and their overall bottom line.
CMOO: How have you helped CertaPro franchisees leverage marketing strategies to meet the goals of their individual locations?
Kinney: We have a set of proven marketing strategies that have worked well in helping the franchisees have a presence in their local communities - boots on the ground and also online. I help franchisees strategize on which of these marketing levers to pull when, and also help them pull all of their efforts together in an integrated manner so there is the highest amount of effective stimuli out in the marketplace during our prime times. Another layer is understanding the local market the franchisee is operating in. Is it a resort area with second homes? If so, that takes a different approach. Is the area more rural than urban? Is there a high number of gated communities? All these elements affect an approach and help us develop a customized marketing plan.
CMOO: CertaPro's "50 Shades of Gray Paint" video was a great way for the brand to stay relevant beyond just when your customers are looking to paint their homes or commercial spaces. How did you get your franchisees involved in promoting the video on their own social channels? Were there any paid media or PR efforts involved in your content distribution strategy?
Kinney: This was the first time we launched a video with the intent to engage with our fans and non-fans regarding relevant content. We did send out communications to our franchisees and also posted a notification on our private franchisee and associate Facebook group. Once franchisees saw the video, they immediately began sharing it on their local pages. We received very positive feedback from our system regarding the approach. The Facebook channel is "pay to play." To introduce the CertaPro Painters brand to potential new customers within our demo, we did allocate a budget for paid Facebook placements.
CMOO: What kind of response did you get to the somewhat provocative tone of the video?
Kinney: We received a very positive response from the audience who viewed the video. We intentionally targeted individuals within our demo who would be aware of the movie and prompted to engage with our video parody. Overall, the video significantly exceeded our initial goal of 30,000 views.
CMOO: Are there any lessons from this experience you'd like to share?
Kinney: Because of the nature of the movie content, we did have internal discussions on risk/reward and the necessary steps to ensure the content had a tongue-in-cheek approach. My philosophy is that if you don't feel at least a little uncomfortable with your marketing efforts, you are most likely not pushing yourself enough. If the marketing concept aligns with your brand promise and easily passes through the filters of what the company is trying to achieve, in both the short and long term, then you need to move forward and not look back.
CMOO: Are you planning to execute any other similar brand initiatives in the near future?
Valerie: We're all about painting and adding color - very visual elements. As we continue to engage with our audiences, we will explore how video and relevant topics tie in to our overall marketing efforts.
This conversation first appeared in the CMO Outlook (CMOO) blog, an ongoing initiative from St. Jacques Marketing that presents viewpoints and future trends from leading brand and franchise brand marketing executives.
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