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    Roo Gives a Voice to Kangaroo Express

    The mascot is key to the c-store chain's new brand image and will play a larger role going forward.

    By Laura Liebeck

    CARY, N.C. -- Roo, The Pantry's Kangaroo Express mascot, is hitting the big time. The character, who is usually "seen" in shaded profile on store signs, will play a bigger role in the chain's promotional efforts and give voice to the Kangaroo Express brand, said Dave Henninger, vice president of marketing services.

    An all-new radio campaign featuring Roo launched this fall and he'll play a larger role on the retailer's website, Facebook and Twitter communications moving forward.

    "The character is becoming an interesting phenomenon," Henninger told CSNews Online.

    The fun, interesting, witty and sincere Roo character exploded in popularity this summer during Kangaroo Express' "Salute Our Troops" campaign, which was designed to raise money for charities that serve military families. The initiative, which also was crafted to expand the chain's cold dispensed beverage program especially with a younger demographic (teens and young 20s), heightened awareness of the c-store chain beyond the company's original plan and catapulted Roo to pop-culture icon status in its markets.

    The campaign won on all fronts: it raised two-and-a-half times as much money as Kangaroo Express expected ($2.5 million vs. the expected $1 million); blasted through the 250,000 20-ounce refillable cups in the promotion undertaken to increase sales of fountain drinks; and received great gifts from the market in the form of customer coined phrases the chain is turning into a promotional initiative that has only begun to deliver benefits.

    Now added to the marketing vernacular: "Roo Cup" and "Roo Run."

    The three-pronged Salute Our Troops campaign was launched in conjunction with $6.99 graphic-rich refillable cold cups, which were designed to drive cold beverage sales and be a catalyst to bring customers into stores all summer for free refills and to make donations to benefit the USO and Wounded Warrior Project. State-based military support organizations that benefit soldiers and their families in five states, also benefited from this initiative.

    The program really resonated with employees and customers alike and the cups sold out quickly, with some of them promoted by consumers as "Roo Cups" selling on eBay for as much as $40 each, Henninger said. In the interim, the newly minted "Roo Cups" became the necessary equipment for a summer "Roo Run."

    The program was "just off-the-hook amazing," declared Henninger.

    This kind of marketing -- and now the introduction of radio advertising -- are both new endeavors for Kangaroo Express. With such early success, more of both can be expected. "People want to engage with us and connect with the kangaroo," he said.

    Kangaroo Express will deliver both engaging content and the playful Roo. Consumers can get a feel for Roo's personality on the Kangaroo Express website by checking out the Bean Street Coffee pages. The "voice" of Roo welcomes visitors with his caffeinated personality: "The Roo Wants to Hook You Up," says the audio.

    Henninger noted that the chain will leverage social media, the company's website and the new Roo Blog, along with relationship-based marketing efforts including the launch of a Kangaroo Express mobile app that will join all the digital and Internet efforts together. The app will likely feature a forum to "check in" on Kangaroo Express locations, enable users to share their experience with friends and provide customer feedback. The retailer also will build a loyalty program and connect QR codes to it.

    Building its social media presence is important to Kangaroo Express because it's the way to reach young consumers, the company's target demographic. The program is building quickly, Henninger acknowledged, reporting the chain amassed approximately 4,000 "friends" on Facebook in four months and another 650 on Twitter -- and continues to grow.

    The c-store chain is just getting started in social media. Executives view social media as a vital growth vehicle that will provide lasting benefits: a loyal customer base for years and hopefully forever. Right now, the company is having fun developing concepts and "playing" with them to see what fits best.

    For National Coffee Day on Sept. 29, Kangaroo Express announced on Facebook that it hid Bean Street Coffee Roo Mugs around Charlotte, N.C., for locals to find. Successful sleuths got their first mug of coffee for free. On Twitter and Facebook, the chain is holding Roo Game of the Week contests. Any customer who submits the final score of a particular game prior to kickoff wins a $10 gift card.

    In addition, Kangaroo Express introduced a text-message campaign, providing special benefits to Roo Club members. This effort, undertaken to quickly reach younger customers in a way that meets their communication expectations, advises them on promotions and other important company messages in quick info blurbs. The program promptly grew to 4,000 members and that number continues to build.

    At its core, Kangaroo Express wants to make shopping at its stores easier, faster and more enjoyable for customers, and while executives continue to develop merchandising programs to satisfy shoppers' many needs, the marketing team will create upbeat messaging campaigns that drive in foot traffic.

    For more on Kangaroo Express' new marketing approach, look for the "Inside The Pantry" Special Edition that will be part of the November 7 issue of Convenience Store News.


    By Laura Liebeck
    • About Laura Liebeck

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