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Social: SMB's Not-So-Secret Weapon

SMB Retail by Angela Diffly

Hello Pocky fans! Retail technology experts

Turning Japanese

At the age of 22 I had the adventure of a lifetime. I took off on a plane from Birmingham, AL to Takamatsu, Japan (Shikoku island) to begin a year teaching English abroad. I enjoyed my experience immensely. So much so, I ended up staying nearly two years, living in both Takamatsu and Tokyo. There are so many things that made me happy in Japan. And one of them was a cute little chocolate-covered biscuit stick (shaped like a 4th of July sparkler) called Pocky.

I packed loads of Pocky with me when it was time to return home. I savored every last bite of every tiny stick until I ran out and thought I’d never taste the heavenly treat again. Until I saw the bright red box in Cost Plus World Market one day and yelled, “No way!” to no one and to everyone. The clerk asked if anything was wrong. No. Everything was perfect. All was right in the universe.

Coming To America

The coveted red-boxed treat made by Ezaki Glico has been enjoyed by Japanese people since 1966, and is making its way into the hearts and hands of Americans via its headquarters in Irvine, CA. And via an unmistakable bright red Pocky truck. Sharing is a cornerstone of the brand, so what better way to do it than to take Pocky on the road?

Ezaki Glico worked with marketing brand-building agency Dent to hit the road in its “Share Happiness” Tour, now in its third year. In 2013-2014, it traveled throughout Los Angeles and Orange County. Then it hit the road again in 2015 covering San Diego, San Francisco, and LA. Then the truck drove all the way across the country, from LA to New Jersey. 

“Along the way we met fans who were so surprised and thrilled to see Pocky coming through their small towns and stopping at places, like the Grand Canyon and the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas,” a Pocky representative told us. “We also arranged special stops to visit individual fans in smaller cities where you wouldn’t expect there to be much awareness of Pocky, states like Oklahoma, North Carolina and Virginia. But these were big fans! And it made them so happy that Pocky would make a special trip just to see them and share some Pocky, which is the whole point of the tour, of course. And when we got to New York they just went nuts. The truck and brand ambassadors were mobbed! It was a great experience for all.”

If you’re on the east coast, you’re in luck. The truck is currently out there on the road, making its way throughout New York City and northern New Jersey until the end of February 2016. Even more tours will be scheduled for later this year, but dates and locations have not yet been shared.

Getting Social

Speaking of sharing, social media fueled the chocolate buzz along the way, where fans on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube gathered, all in the name of Pocky. The company used its social channels strategically, to announce where they were headed, and post fun pictures and heartwarming videos. The colorful, animated “Pocky Ambassadors” performed flashmob-style dances and encouraged fans to use various props, perfect for Pocky selfies.

And word spread fast. Really fast.

A Pocky representative told us they were very pleased at how effective this sampling campaign has been at driving store traffic, much better than they expected. “Hardcore fans already know where to find Pocky, but more casual fans aren’t sure. Fans have traditionally bought their Pocky at Asian markets, but few consumers know that Pocky is also in most grocery stores in the Asian food aisle. The Share Happiness tour is growing awareness for Pocky, and where to buy it.”

“It is very important for us to engage and connect directly with the Pocky fans who have made our brand the success it is today. We need to thank them and share some happiness!” said Shunsuke Nakai, president of Ezaki Glico USA. “And we know from experience that those fans will then share that Pocky brand experience with their friends, family and coworkers, and that helps drive retail traffic.”

Check out the video below:

YouTube Preview Image

Pocky recently executed another social campaign with the help of integrated marketing firm Santy, which specializes in reaching gen X and millennial moms. According to the firm, Pocky’s November “Share-A-Bration” campaign attracted nearly 50,000 participants, resulting in more than 100,000 total shares across social networks and increasing the brand’s social mentions in the U.S. by more than 75 percent. The firm has worked with Pocky for its holiday “Share To Care” video contest whereby top community influencers on social networks were asked to film themselves sharing Pocky with strangers. The video with the most votes will be awarded $5,000 to give to the charity of choice.

Not Lost In Translation

SMBs should borrow a page out of the Pocky playbook. After all, Pocky was not a well-known brand here before it started sharing its products, and its strong brand attributes, in the good ole US of A.

When it comes to social, SMBs have a distinct advantage over big-box stores. Social is all about getting up close and personal. SMBs have a golden opportunity to cultivate relationships with fans, and foster brand loyalty, via social connection. If they can get creative, and involve customers the way Pocky did so effectively, SMBs will experience the social phenomenon where customers become their biggest fans (and most avid brand advocates). Which sells much better than businesses trying to sell themselves. And the best part? It’s FREE. All you need is a little time and a lot of personality.

Consider these statistics (too good to ignore):

  • 8 out of 10 SMBs use social media for their businesses (Hubspot)
  • 3 in 5 SMBs say they’ve gained new customers using social media (Hubspot)
  • 82% of SMBs in “hyper growth” (significant increase in revenue) say that social media is effective for generating leads (Hubspot)
  • Facebook is the most visited website (of all websites) (Yahoo Small Business) and Twitter is the 2nd most used social network (85 percent) by B2B marketers (Flip Creator)
  • The average Twitter user follows five or more businesses and over a third of Twitter users will buy from a brand they follow (Media Bistro)
  • 70% of business to consumer marketers have acquired customers through Facebook (State of Inbound Marketing)
Fostering Loyalty

I didn’t need the Pocky truck to fuel my loyalty. But I’m glad I experienced it. I saw the happy red truck parked on Market Street in San Francisco, where I was traveling for business. I knew immediately what it was. And I will never forget it. Why? Because I already loved the brand and the product, so the truck did exactly what it was intended to do. It shared happiness. And for those who didn’t already know the brand? They do now. My only regret? I didn’t get a selfie.



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