Create Loyal Customers by Building a Community, Part 2

When we left off, India’s best-selling beer manufacturer had created a fee-based community by aligning itself with the popular sport of Formula 1 (F1) racing. Today, a look at how Kingfisher keeps the community it built engaged via email communications.

Monthly Newsletter

Kingfisher and its agency, BridgeoverTW, created a fortnightly newsletter, “Irregular Pulse.” It’s standard HTML fare, with colorful graphics at the top and text content below. A January 2003 issue displayed the Kingfisher Team F1 logo and F1 models (women, not cars!) at the top, followed by a racer profile, news headlines, computer wallpaper downloads, and a short trivia section.

Far from standard, however, are the results. The average open rate is 92 percent, and the newsletter garners an 88 percent average CTR for its various links. Anannya Deb of Xerago, BridgeoverTW’s strategic partner, notes the company formerly tracked CTR on individual links but switched to an alternative, cheaper system that tracks only cumulative click-throughs (hence, average CTR equals the total clicks divided by the number of links).

When Kingfisher tracked individual links, it found the most popular section was the Pit Babe (not surprising, given its male-dominated membership), followed by the driver profile. The least-clicked links were in the news section, where presumably recipients read the headlines and moved on to other content. Because the content is designed only for paying subscribers, pages are hosted separately and nonmembers are denied access.

Pre-race Mailer

The club’s big event is Race Day, which takes place at various Bangalore pubs. During the event, members can watch the race on giant screens at selected pubs. They mingle with other members, share their opinions on the sport, take part in F1 quizzes and other games, and receive two free mugs of Kingfisher beer.

Before the race, the agency team prepares a series of pre-race mailers that offer a race preview, expert analyses, circuit information, a popular “Predict the Pole Position” contest, and other items, including photographs of previous contest winners. These mailers are sent at lunchtime on the Wednesday preceding the race. They have a 95 percent open rate and 100 percent CTR. No, that isn’t a typo. When I queried Deb, he emphasized members expect the mailings. “Think of it is as a paid email newsletter piece. Since you have paid for it, you better open it and read it,” he notes.

Simple Reminder

The Friday before the race, Kingfisher sends a simple text email message informing members about the race and where it can be watched, along with information about privileges and gifts awaiting members. I asked Deb why this wasn’t combined with the pre-race mailer. He explained Indians, especially the younger crowd, tend to make last-minute decisions about what to do on the weekend. This additional reminder helps build excitement for the race-day event.

Post-race Mailer

After race day, a post-race mailing is sent to all club members. It summarizes race results, carries race analysis, and features a summary of race-day pub events. This mailing typically sees a 67 percent open rate and 20 percent CTR.

When I asked Deb what he attributes the lower rates to, he noted it’s likely because most recipients have already seen the race and had their share of analysis with friends; this email is meant primarily for those who missed the event.

One-to-one Messages

Personal one-to-one communication also helps bond members into a community. Kingfisher sends a personalized welcome message, birthday greetings, New Year’s and other holiday cards, and similar messages to every member. Kingfisher also created a 2003 Race Calendar screensaver in Flash, which it sent to all members. It garnered a nearly 100 percent download rate.

Other Invitations

To keep the feeling of community growing, the agency regularly holds exclusive events where members can interact with one another. As part of its off-season activities, Kingfisher and its agency hosted an amateur karting (go-carting) championship for members in December 2003, promoted via email. Deb says nearly 2,000 members turned up, making it the largest congregation of amateur karters in India.

Results

Typically in email marketing case studies, we talk about results in terms of open rates and CTR. Along with the great open rates and CTRs, we can also see the results in the pubs. If you entice more customers into pubs, you’ll likely see an increase in beer consumption. Yes, club members receive two mugs of beer on the house, but members usually don’t stop there, and that member may bring friends along. During each 2003 race day, Kingfisher sold an average of 125 crates of beer in pubs, compared to a 20-25 crate average on nonrace days.

Kingfisher didn’t have a tracking system in place, but pub sales figures indicate the average number of pub visitors on race days increased from 10 to 120 per pub by season’s end. The company doesn’t know whether all incremental visitors were F1 club members, as members could bring friends as well as spread the word virally. Nonmembers, of course, still drink beer. And promotion executives approached them for membership.

Kingfisher clearly is happy with the campaign. Having tasted success in Bangalore, Kingfisher Team F1 is set to hit at least four other cities in India over the coming year.

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