This summer was a pretty unique summer. A family friend was retiring from the Marines at the end of July, I needed to be at the Florida Association of Orthotists & Prosthetists meeting shortly thereafter and there were a lot of friends, family and customers that could also use a visit. So I made a road trip. I was able to collect an enormous amount of marketing-related “research material” throughout the almost 3-week trip down and up the East Coast.
Marketing is marketing. It doesn’t matter if you own a lemonade stand, run a nonprofit organization, manage a car repair shop or an O&P patient care facility. You all have access to the same marketing tools and techniques. Great marketing ideas are everywhere and you shouldn’t be afraid to find inspiration anywhere. Case in point: the pig, specifically, Maurice’s Piggie Park BBQ.
Case study in marketing
If you live in New York and you are driving to Florida and back you will end up driving through South Carolina twice. If you like barbeque and you find a great place to eat it on the way down, you will most likely stop at the same place on the way back. I highly recommend Maurice’s Piggie Park BBQ for the food. I definitely recommend it as a case study in marketing.
A little bit about Maurice’s: Maurice was an actual guy. The restaurants – there are 14 of them – are on their third generation and they have been around for 70 years. They have some interesting looking restaurants. They do catering. They also sell their food and sauces all over the world.
The first Maurice’s we went to was in what looked like an old gas station. Not a cool old gas station like those they sometimes convert into restaurants in hipster vacation spots. This place looked kind of sketchy. I was hungry so we were going. Inside, it still looked sketchy but there were lots of people and everything smelled great. The girl at the counter was super friendly and instead of refusing to substitute different sides, actually offered suggestions on how to change the order to get what we wanted. We ordered and then sat down because they bring you your food.
While we were sitting there I realized:
- We were there because we had been reading their billboards on the highway for several miles.
- They have got a mascot. His name is Little Joe.
- They have a Little Joe E-Club – invitations to join were everywhere.
- “Little Joe is a social pig” so he is on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
- They name and brand their most popular specials, such as the Little Joe platter and Big Joe platter.
- They have their own coloring page – a picture of Little Joe, of course – and they hold coloring contests and display the pictures up on the walls.
- They sponsor the 2014 Dixie Youth Baseball World Series.
On the way back through South Carolina, guess what? We stopped at another Maurice’s Piggie Park BBQ. This one was clearly not an old gas station but inside it equally was clear that it had not been renovated in forever.
Sitting there I realized that in addition to all the things I had learned the last time, they also used many pictures as part of their marketing efforts. There were framed pictures up on the walls and they featured everyone from “Miss Nell,” one of the restaurant’s original car hops in a bouffant hairdo the size of Texas, to the most recent quarterback from University of South Carolina. How do I know he was the most recent quarterback? Because every single picture was captioned with the name, title if applicable and date. It seems Little Joe wants to make everyone feel special, like a celebrity.
The key to their marketing plan is engagement. The folks behind Maurice’s Piggie Park BBQ use their chosen marketing tools to engage everyone and make them feel like a part of the Piggie Park family. Twitter – check. Facebook – check. Coloring pages – check. Photos on the wall – check. Little Joe is not just a social pig; he is a marketing genius.
Do you have a mascot? Is he as smart as the pig from South Carolina?