I’ll admit it. It’s not often that I mention Major League Baseball (MLB), McDonald’s and Patagonia in the same sentence . . . or even in the same paragraph, for that matter.
But this fall, I’ve really been struck with how each organization in this unlikely trio is scoring big from a marketing perspective. Each one, in its own way, has mastered the art (and science!) of market segmentation and customer engagement.
The MLB Fan Cave
Located at the corner of 4th and Broadway in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, the MLB Fan Cave has been home to baseball fan Mike O’Hara and his Wing-man Ryan Wagner for every day of the entire 2011 MLB season. The two were tasked with using the Fan Cave to watch all 2,430 regular season games (plus all post-season games) while chronicling their experiences and sharing their viewpoints through Facebook, Twitter, a blog, custom videos and regular appearances on MLB Network.
As we discussed last week, the results have been quite impressive. According to ESPN, this first-of-its-kind immersive fan experience helped MLB connect with a younger audience. (The average Fan Cave fan is 28 years old; the average die-hard MLB fan is 45). In addition, the MLB Fan Cave has generated:
- 100 million social media impressions on Facebook and Twitter over the past six months
- 150,000 fans and followers
- 300 blog posts and 200 videos (including this David Ortiz clip that went viral)
Just as MLB used the Fan Cave to tap into the likes and behaviors of a key demographic, McDonald’s says it is giving “barbeque sauce-loving . . .fanatics” what they crave: the return of the McRib.
Billed as an iconic sandwich with a cult-like following, the McRib is only occasionally available –and it generates plenty of buzz (and revenue) whenever it re-appears. The Los Angeles Times reports that when the McRib made a limited-time reappearance last fall after a 16-year hiatus, customers went whole hog and drove up McDonald’s US sales 4.8 percent.
Of course, these days the return of the McRib is being celebrated via fan-generated Facebook groups and on Twitter. McRib fans can also play “The Quest for the Golden McRib” on McDonald’s Facebook page . . . and if all of this talk is making you hungry, log into the McRib Locator to find a sandwich near you. (You may also want to locate a few extra napkins.)
Patagonia’s Common Threads Initiative
MLB knows its fans love to talk baseball. McDonald’s knows it customers long for boneless pork patties smothered in barbeque sauce. How did Patagonia connect with its target audience this fall? The company underscored it long-standing tradition of corporate responsibility and urged consumers to “buy less, buy used.”
You read that right. This September, Patagonia teamed up with eBay to expand its Common Threads Initiative and encourage less consumption, reuse and recycling.
“This program first asks customers to not buy something if they don’t need it,” explained Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia’s founder and owner, in a press release. “If they do need it, we ask that they buy what will last a long time — and to repair what breaks, reuse or resell whatever they don’t wear any more. And, finally, recycle whatever’s truly worn out.”
While this approach has obvious environmental benefits, it certainly seems counterintuitive to an apparel manufacturer’s growth. Can a “buy less” philosophy lead to success?
Eric Lowitt over at the Harvard Business Review Blog Network thinks it can. Since Patagonia is already focused on high-quality goods, this new approach could lead to increased prices, a broadened customer base and expansion into new categories, he says.
As I see it, Patagonia also wins by sending out a message that truly resonates with its customers. The company’s target audience already has an interest in sustainability; this new initiative helps make those connections even stronger. In addition, Patagonia’s heightened commitment to environmental stewardship widens its appeal even more to those who make green issues a priority.
MLB, McDonald’s and Patagonia all know how to nurture brand affinity. Over the past few months, each has stepped it up a notch to connect with customers using strategies that are innovative and targeted. With these examples from major league sports, fast food and outdoor apparel, it’s clear that marketers across the board now recognize the value of market segmentation and customer engagement.