Draw and retain customers by growing your community visibility with pink-powered publicity.
By Robyn Emde
This Marketing Magic series highlights ways to attract business with impactful promotions.
Most people don’t associate cars and cause marketing with the female anatomy, except maybe from a teenage-era poster of a yellow Lamborghini draped with a leggy bikini model. So, for the auto repair shop industry to embrace breast cancer awareness as a mission may seem like a stretch. However, this dreaded disease impacts millions of lives, and many of us know someone who has battled it — whether he or she is a friend, family member, customer or coworker.
This year, it’s estimated that there will be more than 250,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer and approximately 41,000 deaths from it among women in the United States alone, according to the Susan G. Komen organization. Rates are significantly lower for men but shouldn’t be ignored: more than 2,400 will be diagnosed, and 460 will perish.
For today’s businesses, supporting philanthropy through cause marketing is a must. We live in a socially conscious climate where consumers will choose a brand based solely on whether or not it champions a charitable effort. In fact, more than 85 percent of shoppers will purchase a product or service because it advocates for an issue they care about, according to Cone Communications’ 2017 corporate social responsibility survey.
As a shop owner, the question isn’t if you should consider cause marketing, but when and how. With National Breast Cancer Awareness (BCA) Month upon us, now is an ideal opportunity for auto repair outfits to not only raise consciousness about a disease that personally affects their customers but also reach out to the general public as a whole.
“For a long time, the industry hasn’t had the best image among consumers,” says Laura Frank, owner of Auto Repair Technology in Brook Park, Ohio. “Together, we can fix that by doing something good for our communities, and, in turn, that’s great publicity for independent shops.”
So, how can operators effectively donate their time and services? And, which events or promotions work best? An impressive number of facilities have already made the cause marketing connection. They’re affecting change in local areas and building up their businesses one pink ribbon at a time.
1. Promotion commotion.
Ice Cold Air Discount Auto Repair in Clearwater, Florida, sells pink windshield wiper blades during National BCA Month. “We buy them from Solid Start in Lakeland, Florida, which is female owned and operated and donates a portion [of each sale] to breast cancer research,” owner Sharon Pelka says.
To get the word out, Pelka delivers flyers door to door. In addition, she posts notices on Facebook and emails customers about the benefit [for more social media marketing tips, read Flex Your Facebook Muscle: 3 Clever Giveaways Guaranteed to Reap Rewards].
Patrons receive magnets and other trinkets to take home. Plus, Pelka places BCA-themed pumpkins on display around the shop, parks an old, pink SUV adorned with large, black, cartoon eyelashes in front and dots her property with yard signs that read, “Save the Tatas.” She also prompts employees to wear shirts in the symbolic bright shade that represents the fight against the disease.
Ice Cold Air Discount Auto Repair retails the blades for $24.99 a set and has already raised more than $500. “It’s pretty significant considering the items’ low cost,” Pelka says.
When guests purchase the components, Ice Cold Air Discount Auto Repair gives part of its earnings to [this year’s recipient] the Morton Plant Mease Health Care Foundation in Clearwater, Florida. The money helps subsidize the price of mammograms for women who can’t afford them. “The additional cost to us is minimal,” Pelka says. “We have to get wipers anyway, so we might as well sell them for a good cause.”
“We’re very visual about what we do,” Pelka says. “[The special is] less focused on bringing in business and more about showing people our presence in the community.”
2. Detail work and truck stack donation.
Amber and Luke Pinkleman, co-owners of Pinkelman Truck & Trailer in Norfolk, Nebraska, donated their time and labor to fix up a cement transport as a rolling tribute to cancer awareness.
Break Records with Brakes for Breasts
Prevention is the best cure. That’s the philosophy Leigh Anne Best at Mighty Auto Pro in Medina, Ohio, and Laura Frank at Auto Repair Technology in Brook Park, Ohio, adopted when selecting a place to focus their breast cancer awareness fundraising efforts. “I truly feel that with visibility comes responsibility,” Frank says. “And, as repair shop owners, we are visible.”
In 2011, Frank’s mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, which is directly linked to breast cancer through the BRCA1 gene. The determined duo heard about Vincent Tuohy, who has a Doctor of Philosophy in Pathology, and his work for the Cleveland Clinic Breast Cancer Vaccine Research Fund and knew it found the right fit.
“Though we searched nationwide for a recipient, Tuohy ended up being right in our own backyard,” Best says. “We liked that his efforts were focused solely on creating a vaccine to prevent breast cancer, sparing many the horrors endured when undergoing traditional treatments.” Complications from chemotherapy are eventually what took Frank’s mom, not the disease.
Frank and Best developed Brakes for Breasts in 2011 and have been growing the fundraiser ever since. Their first event garnered $10,000 and included just five local operations. Last year, 131 independent auto repair businesses across 35 states generated nearly $126,000. “We’ve raised more than $492,000 to date and are confident we will pass the half-million mark this year,” Frank says.
The program is fairly straightforward. Each participating facility contacts its preferred brake vendor as a sponsor for the event and gets the outfit to donate free pads and shoes for the month of October. In exchange, operators can offer to purchase all other related materials from that supplier. Then, the location provides customers with free pads and shoes on brake jobs for the month, only charging for additional parts and labor. The company then donates 10 percent of each sale to the Cleveland Clinic Breast Cancer Vaccine Research Fund.
Businesses are encouraged to get creative with their own promotions. Or, they may contact brakesforbreasts.com about other marketing aids available through the organization.
Frank and Best plan to make a difference with each pad sold. “Brakes for Breasts wouldn’t be successful without the members who participate,” Frank says. “It’s all of us, no matter how big or small, who make this work.”
The Pinkelmans detailed the pink and purple vehicle, polished the chrome and installed dual stacks for West-Hodson Lumber & Concrete Company. The project took two days to complete.
Sharon Closter, the aunt of West-Hodson’s owner, lost her battle with ovarian cancer. So, the Nebraska-based business gives a portion of the earnings from every load delivery to research. In Closter’s memory, a teal ribbon says, “Remembering Sharon” on the drum.
“As a rule, the concrete industry has two speeds — fast and faster,” says owner Rich Hodson. “Sometimes we forget to take the time to do something good — something for a good cause.”
No funds were raised or donated by the Pinkelmans. However, upgrading the concrete mixing truck cost the dynamic duo approximately $1,800, and the couple performed its services free of charge.
West-Hodson commits $1 for every yard of concrete the vehicle hauls and is a favorite among buyers. “We have quite a few customers request the truck, so they can show it to cancer survivors,” manager Paul Holland says.
The Pinkelmans were also pleased with the result of the candy-colored paint job. “You definitely can’t miss it driving around town,” Luke says.
3. BCA barbecue benefit.
Last October, The Auto & Tire Doctor held a barbecue at its facility to support The Tutu Project. The cause marketing campaign raises funds to aid families dealing with the financial burdens of a breast cancer diagnosis.
The Truckee, California-based company spent about $800 on the shindig. Gourmet sausages, such as mushroom asiago and chicken asparagus, salad, chips, sodas and bottled waters were provided. “The food was amazing, and we had a volunteer come grill for us,” says manager Jodi DeRuise, who charged a $10 entry fee.
The Auto & Tire Doctor utilized the usual avenues for marketing the promotion. They included Facebook and neighborhood flyers.
To draw more attention, the auto repair shop also used one slightly unconventional method that involved cross-dressing. It posted various photos of male and female employees sporting pink ballet attire.
“Men wearing tutus definitely gets people’s attention,” DeRuise says. “But most helpful was probably the great article the local newspaper published about us just before the event.”
The barbecue cooked up about $2,000 in revenue, and 100 percent of the income went to The Tutu Project.
Although DeRuise didn’t see an immediate increase in business directly related to the benefit, she believes it contributed to a much bigger picture for the company. “All the community functions we host play a part in our 35 years of success,” DeRuise says.
“The beauty of The Tutu Project is that it gets folks talking about us and breast cancer,” DeRuise says. “Each time we’re out wearing tutus, people stop us to ask about them — and that’s exactly what we want!”
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