Social Media According to Shakespeare

ALON executive talks from the 'heart' at mobile-technology conference

Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP

Scott Shakespeare

CHICAGO -- With regards to technology and social media, Scott Shakespeare wants to get to the heart of the matter.

The general manager of branding, advertising and promotions for Alon Brands, Dallas, spoke recently before about 400 attendees at a mobile-marketing conference, touting the wonders of technology and social media, while at the same time emphasizing the importance of actually connecting with people.

Technology gets a lot of focus, Shakespeare said, but "to me, the solution isn't about technology. Yes, you need infrastructure, but the key is to get into the customer's heart."

Strong marketing strategies involving technology need to engage customers in meaningful ways. At the RAMP conference for retail technology, sponsored by The Morrissey Group, Boca Raton, Fla., Shakespeare spoke of commercials that hit the mark in his opinion. One was a Disney commercial that showed videos or children being told they were going to Disneyland. The screams of joy became the reason parents choose to take their children to that amusement park resort, he said.

In another example, he named a Kleenex commercial where people were asked to remember touching moments in their lives. The interviews inevitably brought tears, resulting in the need for tissues.

As a fuel refiner and marketer, Alon's task is more difficult, he said. "We're gas; it's a grudge buy," he said. "People have to do it."

But that doesn't mean Alon can't touch people's emotions, he said. Anecdotally, he has had people win free gasoline or iPads, which resulted in meaningful stories. He said one mother had a premature baby and caring for the child meant long drives to specific hospitals and doctors for treatment. In that case, free gas was a real help.

In another case, long drives to hospitals meant a sick child's siblings needed entertainment. The iPad worked well for that family.

Connecting with consumers may not mean employing all the latest technologies or social-media options either, Shakespeare said. At one point, Alon was investigating multiple avenues of outreach. "We've calmed down about that," he said, adding that their most successful outreach to date has been with text messaging. The No. 1 city for texting, he said, was El Paso, Texas, one of Alon's markets.

"We try to be as thoughtful as we can, but the consumer will let us know what they like and what they don't like," he said.

In terms of texting promotions, he says "milk and chips do well, but not hot dogs." With regards to buy-one-get-one-free promotions, he says that for some reason, coffee paired with bottled water is a good combination.

"But the most successful locations--the ones that embrace texting or have the greatest redemptions--are ones where store managers know their customers and have created a relationship."

Alon is a licensee of Dallas-based 7-Eleven. It company operates about 300 locations and has another 500 Alon-branded sites, mostly run by other parties throughout west Texas and New Mexico.

Angel Abcede, CSP/Winsight By Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP
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