You Can't Just Choose One

You Can't Just Choose One

February 21, 2024

8 minute Read

Marketing messages that stick in an era of mega-options.

Marketing options for businesses are changing almost daily as the methods of reaching potential customers continue to expand. Crafting an approach, then, has become ever more important to ensuring marketing messages stick as the seemingly endless slope of available marketing tactics gets steeper and faster.

Creating a marketing portfolio to reach customers through a variety of platforms is critical to keeping your business top of mind with customers, said Megan Gilchrist, marketing director at Focused Car Wash Solutions, a distributor in the Rocky Mountain region that sells/installs equipment and offers other solutions, including marketing support, to car wash operators. Often, she finds that not all car wash operators buy into the power of marketing. “For many car wash operators, marketing is some kind of ‘voodoo magic’ they don’t buy into if they can’t see a traceable and immediate return on investment,” she said. “While it’s important to track your efforts and ditch the platforms that aren’t delivering, it’s equally important to keep a presence in your community, build goodwill and trust that customers will come to you when the need arises.”

When it comes to choosing where to spend marketing dollars, Gilchrist recommends avoiding platforms that require high upfront investments and long-term contracts. Digital ads are a viable alternative. “Google, Facebook, Instagram are fantastic for reaching customers in your market that are seeking out car wash services,” she said. “You can set your own budget and stop at any time.” She views text marketing as another great tool for reaching consumers and keeping them in the communication funnel, and even though she concedes direct mail can be costly, “it is still a great tool for reaching those not-so-tech-savvy consumers in the marketplace.”

When launching a new wash, Focused Car Wash Solutions advises its operators to make a powerful first impression and “become a celebrity in their market,” Gilchrist said. This includes hitting the ground running with digital ads, direct mail, email, text marketing, press releases and radio. “Even if you’re the only wash in town, customers still need constant reminders and reasons to wash their car,” she said. “Building a strong community presence through events and sponsorships will go a long way as well.”

9 Messages Wild Blue 3478 2 copyMarketing is an integral part of a grand opening, including the one recently held by Wild Blue Car Wash (pictured) in Marshall, Mo. The marketing initiative included a combination of Google ads, social media ads, direct mail, text marketing, radio commercials and newspaper ads — plus various onsite efforts, such as a prize wheel and custom window decals. The promotions equated to more than 2,000 cars being washed that weekend, said Megan Gilchrist, marketing director at Focused Car Wash Solutions, and the facility gained hundreds of new wash club members.

Marketing, of course, plays a huge role in the launch of any new brand. As the newest brand under the Driven Brands portfolio, the primary focus around Take 5 Car Wash marketing stems from building awareness. “It’s a new brand; our major focus is introducing that brand to the communities we operate in and reach potential customers,” said Chief Marketing Officer Brady Noon. Driven Brands launched the Take 5 Car Wash brand in 2020 and remains on track to complete rebranding its 350-plus car wash network to Take 5 Car Wash by the end of this year.

Noon relies on all media formats, including social media, programmatic display advertising and radio, to connect Take 5 Car Wash with consumers. When it comes to choosing the perfect marketing medium —and today he agrees the options are abundant — Noon avoids leaning too heavily into one specific marketing channel. “The marketing community can get caught up in traditional versus modern/digital, but at Take 5 we seek to meet customers where they are, irrespective of the medium,” he said. “Radio, for example, is still 100% valuable.” 

How effective and efficient the channel will be takes precedence for Noon: “How much response we get for the impressions, and how many impressions we get for the dollar.” The efficacy of a 30-second TV ad will likely differ from a 1-second impression on a side banner on a website, he said. “The TV ad, then, costs more for that improved quality of connection. It’s balancing that to understand how to get the most engagement from customers,” he said, adding that it also varies all the time.

Social media has worked incredibly hard to create high-quality impressions, Noon said. “You have to think about the context of social media and integrate it into the best, complete mix for your marketing efforts.”

Understanding what makes up the best mix is an ongoing effort for Noon, who sometimes shifts his approach as the year evolves. It’s less defined by design, enabling him to adjust and adapt to business context as the year evolves. The end of each fiscal quarter offers a natural checkpoint for milestones, he said.

Jeff German, senior director of marketing with Express Wash Concepts, continues to tap many traditional marketing methods. It’s block-and-tackling in his perspective. “You have to do the fundamentals or people will miss it,” he said. For example, he still uses mailers in his marketing program but has stopped using bulk mailer/value coupons. Billboards are still in the mix, as well. “We don’t do things to the extent that we once did, like giant ads in newspapers, but we still employ some of that,” he said. “We are multimedia-based with our marketing. You have to do all of it for any of it to be effective.”

All of it includes forming deep connections to the communities the company operates in, and while that is not marketing per se, the efforts pay off with positive press. Express Wash Concepts’ Cares (EWC Cares) program executes on that ideal and serves as a core piece of the mission statement across all of five car wash brands. The grassroots program enables customers to help others. “It’s woven into the fabric of our marketing,” German said. “It’s as much about generating donations to local nonprofits as it is about converting customers to members. We are a for-profit company, but we can also do some good.”

Specials can work well to both fund the community effort and grow a database for marketing purposes, German said. For example, a fall-themed pumpkin spice air freshener for $1, with proceeds going to the EWC Cares program, also prompted customers to scan a QR code to win an Unlimited Car Wash Membership club for a year. 

German said that geofencing is another opportunity, allowing marketing messages to target digital messages to smartphones within a certain range of a car wash, for example. Email still makes up a large percentage of EWC marketing initiatives, as well, especially when focusing on  reactivate churn.

All marketing executives today benefit from having more data at their fingertips than any other time in history. It can allow for a surgical-like approach to marketing. “Multiplatform digital efforts are simply part of the equation today,” German said.

Subscriber-Based Marketing

Marketing tactics shift when the message is directed to a consumer already familiar with your chain, for example a loyalty member or car wash subscription member. 

In context of a subscriber base, “they know a great deal about us, and we know more about them,” said Noon. “So, we seek to connect with them in a way that adds value for them.” 

From Noon’s perspective, it’s an opportunity to take a deep dive into consumer behavior when more is known about the customer. The behavior information that can support better servicing of customers, he said. For example, if Driven Brands knows Customer A drives has a black car, that’s an indicator of increased demand for a car wash because dirt will show more readily. “Correlating that kind of information generates insight that can support better marketing,” he said.

Driven Brands also utilizes surveys for a deeper understanding of customers and on-site assessments. “We sit and watch cars all the time. There is no replacement for observing your business deeply. That can prove a better validator than any data set,” Noon said. “Looking at license plates, the volume of certain colored cars — it’s very informative.” One of the outcomes of that process resulted in adding a cabinet stocked with microfiber towels for customers after noticing that customers would routinely reach for that item from their own car after going through the wash. 

From a data set perspective, Noon foresees the car wash industry lagging a bit behind other industries but quickly catching up on having the data-set resources that will enable marketers to better understand, and target, customers. “As an industry, we are developing scale, and that allows for greater sophistication,” he said.

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Marketing Takes Flight

A pigeon, which is somewhat unremarkable on its own, has found remarkable new celebrity status with the brand awareness campaign initiated by Take 5 Car Wash. 

From March until May 2023, Take 5 followed its new, pesky mascot, the Take 5 Official Pigeon, around 11 U.S. cities, giving away more 60,000 free car washes to people who claimed their cars had been pooped on by the pigeon. 

“We wanted to do something creative to show our appreciation for our customers, while also inviting people to come check us out and experience the Take 5 difference. It was important to do it in a way that keeps our brand values and personality at the forefront. Take 5’s Official Pigeon is an unexpected and memorable, albeit messy, approach and that’s exactly why we love it,” said Brady Noon, chief marketing officer at Take 5. 

Created in collaboration with independent advertising agency Erich and Kallman, Take 5’s Official Pigeon is designed to drive brand awareness and trial of Take 5 Car Wash. The multi-city activation was supported by a comprehensive marketing campaign, including digital, social, email, radio, coupon drops on cars, outdoor posters, billboard, and on-location signage — all of which highlight the Take 5 Official Pigeon.

“As a brand, Take 5 has a great sense of humor and we had a lot of fun playing with different attention-grabbing ideas for promoting their car wash giveaway,” said Eric Kallman, co-founder and chief creative officer, Erich and Kallman. “Bird poop is one of those things that’s happened to everyone and is pretty hard to ignore when it’s on your car. Pigeons are notorious for it, so why not follow one around as it poops on cars and offer free washes to those people? The Official Pigeon turns an annoying, everyday part of life into a great thing.”

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Media Training

“It’s a whole different world today,” said Bruce Hensley of Hensley Fontana Public Relations, regarding the vast array of mediums available for marketing programs. As the PR partner for Autobell and Howco, his role includes a less conventional form of marketing today: media training. He ensures that store managers are prepared for opportune marketing moments, such as when a local television station wants to show up and talk about the importance of getting a car washed after it snowed all week. “It’s a great form of marketing and very impactful when done correctly,” he said.

The mock interview prep focuses on how to answer likely questions, such as why it’s important to remove pollen through a car wash or how it can help protect a car by removing road brine after snow, and also teaches them how to handle tougher questions on subject such as accidents. “Rehearsing answers gives the store representative confidence when being interviewed, and it also means the media get a better story,” Hensley said. “It’s a win-win.”

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