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HOUSTON — Foodservice is the name of the game for many modern-day convenience store retailers, and that game includes developing a strategy to relay to consumers that a stellar foodservice program is there waiting for them. This is especially true of millennials, a generation practically glued to their mobile devices.
While such a strategy can include many elements from in-store signage to mobile app messages, Houston-headquartered Northwest Petroleum LP’s core convenience store brand QMart approaches outreach by understanding who its target consumers are and utilizing technology to craft an engaging environment.
One of the latest projects from Chief Marketing Officer Meelad Al-Arashi was a Twitter campaign for QMart’s made-to-order foods. Titled “#tacotakedown,” the campaign centered on engaging with what Al-Arashi calls “monster food brands." The campaign ran April 17 through April 30.
The goal of #tacotakedown was to create excitement around the QMart brand and increase loyalty, while conveying to potential “QMarters” — what the brand refers to loyal customers as — that the retailer is so confident in how delicious its food is that it can take on bigger fast-food and fast-casual brands in a David vs. Goliath scenario.
“The idea for #tacotakedown came when I realized that quality food means being able to sit center stage alongside a Goliath in foodservice, and this campaign is a paradigm to this kind of ‘big’ thinking in the digital sphere,” Al-Arashi told Convenience Store News.
The campaign aimed to provoke a response from Taco Bell, while also targeting the foodservice competitor's Twitter users in an effort to promote QMart’s beef fajita tacos. Taco Bell responded with a custom GIF that showed QMart’s taco and theirs mid-fight in preparation for a head-on collision.
“It’s a big feat any time a smaller brand is pitted against any colossal force of competition, but consumers have welcomed and supported it,” said Al-Arashi. "I think we’re on to something here, as it seems rare that convenience stores approach social media proactively like this campaign does. We’re small, but we’re doing big things.”
When asked how #tacotakedown asserts QMart as a foodservice competitor against bigger brands, and what advice she has for other c-store operators looking to use the digital space to engage and attract customers, the marketing executive says the answer lies in authenticity.
“Targeting millennials means catering to a specific, nuanced lifestyle. There’s a reason why every major food brand inevitably integrates and focuses on strategy specifically designed to tackle this group. If you want millennials to open their wallets, you have to be authentic,” she advises.
"This courtship involves knowing that they're smart — they can make a distinction between processed and perfectly manicured foods, so authenticity is key," she continued. "QMart is confident that taste trumps tenure. We know we’re the ‘David’ in this scenario, but we’re confident that our food can accomplish this. The playful nature/rivalry of the campaign just adds to the fun, especially for the consumer."
It is for campaigns like this that QMart recently won the 2017 Gold Hermes Creative Award for Consumer Engagement in Interactive Media and Emerging Technologies. Administered by the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals, the Hermes Creative Awards is an international competition for creative professionals involved in the concept, writing and design of traditional materials and programs, and emerging technologies.
Winners range in size from individual communicators to media conglomerates to Fortune 500 companies. Other 2017 Gold honorees include Bloomberg, Duke University, and the U.S. Department of Labor. QMart was honored for consumer engagement and brand awareness design targeting millennials and promoting QMart’s sub brand of made-to-order foods, called "The Q."
Putting an emphasis on the outcome and not the output is what makes all the difference when it comes to digital campaigning, according to Al-Arashi.
“Being consumer-centric is always a win. If I can delight and engage the customer while adding value by focusing on outcomes and not output, then we’ve succeeded whether an award was won or not,” she said.
“My outlook on marketing strategy starts with one question: Will this add to the customer’s experience in a memorable, positive way? From a branding standpoint, the goal is to occupy share of mind, but what’s more impactful is to incite curiosity without taking away from the overall brand experience."
The next digital campaign for Al-Arashi and QMart, which operates 24 convenience stores across Texas and Oklahoma, is partnering with a nonprofit for Memorial Day. The project will allow QMarters to send thank-you messages to troops through a custom portal.