PODS CMO chats about current marketing ingenuities

INTERVIEW: PODS CMO chats about current marketing ingenuities

Includes utilizing more online, search engine marketing, company recently delivered its two millionth container

(Clearwater, Fla.) PODS has run several promotional and reward-focused events to celebrate themilestone reached in June of delivering its two millionth container to a couple in Valrico, Fla.

The 14-year-old business rewarded the circumstantially-lucky customers with one year of free storage and one free move. The moving and storage solution company expanded its celebration by launching at $10,000 Home Renovation sweepstakes that ends on Monday, Oct 15.

“The PODS solution provided a new, more convenient and flexible way to move and store,” said George Spowart, chief marketing officer of PODS. “Residential and commercial customers no longer were at the mercy of daily truck rental fees or multiple handlings of possessions by full-service movers. This new way of moving and storing revolutionized an industry.”

DailyVista caught up with Spowart (pictured below) to discuss brand awareness, a new customer-focused drive, and a profound recognition of success in the corporate world. This interview comes after our conversation with Ken Ude, president of Storage Mobility, the world's largest PODS franchisee.

Natalie Quinn: How does PODS work to increase brand awareness at the corporate level?

Spowart: There is a variety of different ways in which we promote brand awareness,from traditional media all the way through the emerging online technology. There are all kinds of interesting targeting abilities that [are available] online.

We take advantage of just about everything we can. Those things we haven’t done in the past, we test.

We have done a fair amount of testing and feel that we are always working toward optimizing the mix of different types of media that we are using and testing new things.

Mobile is still fairly new and is something that we are testing aggressively now to see if that will fit into our future marketing plans.

When you say from a corporate level, you probably mean: What do we do nationallyand what do our franchisees do locally?

We like to provide [our franchisees] an umbrella of brand awareness that is driven primarily through TV and online media. Then, they also invest dollars in their location.

Everything is not one-size-fits-all, so there is going to be different timing of business, and/or different response levels towards different types of media. The franchisees supplement the national advertising with their own advertising at the local level.

Natalie Quinn: When you talked about online marketing, what is it that PODS specifically focuses on? Is social media a large part of that?

Spowart: We do use social media, but what has been of particular interest to us lately is video and display advertising that is targeted towards specific demographics that we have success rates with. Those are both interactive display ads as well as our 15-second TV Spot for what they call “Pre-Role” video.

Natalie Quinn: Do you put the same amount of effort towards traditional media that you do for online marketing?

Spowart: As recent as when I started here, which was five years ago, I would say we were 75 plus percent [focused] on TV, if not more. Now that is down to around 40 percent; so, the rest of that has gone more towards online which is both in search and online media.

It’s not that we are not believers in TV; we are very firm believers in video, and how it portrays our brand. Video is a very good way to help people understand what the benefits are. I don’t care if I deliver video to potential customers via TV, online, or their handheld device. We are just trying to find the best ways to that. That doesn’t mean that everything we do is video, it’s just a good medium.

TV still has its place; an analysis that we have done recently still shows [that TV is] a good medium. However, if there is an emerging media, like the internet, you just have to evaluate it compared to traditional ones and we have migrated more of ourdollars into that area.

Natalie Quinn: How has this approach transformed over the years from the beginning, to now with the two millionth container delivery?

Spowart: Well, the two millionth containers being delivered is more of a milestone to celebrate. It is a validation that our business model has been accepted and continues to grow and isn’t going anywhere. In the past when we were 75-90 percent television, not that it’s an easy thing to do but it’s very broad based.

You purchase a TV buy and it runs, you track it as best as you can and that is it. What’s gone on, from a national perspective, is that we have tried to work in media that we have much more ability to alter when and where it’s delivered and how much of it is delivered.

What I am getting at is, online media and search engine marketing can be altered pretty dramatically from one location to the next in order to optimize its success in that specific location, and instead of TV that just reaches everybody the same way. So, I think that has been the biggest change.

Also when I started working here, the way we presented our brand wasn’t as consistent as it probably should be. We have made really good strides in making sure that there is creative available for our franchisees that can be used in a variety of places, whether it's TV, radio, online or even print, which we don’t do a lot of but we have it available because some of our franchisees like it.

Those all have a very consistent platform all tied underneath the tagline which is: “The Best Moving and Storage Idea Ever”

Natalie Quinn: What is PODS next step after this huge milestone? How will its marketing techniques change or evolve? What are some of the current or future campaigns that PODS is pursuing?

Spowart: We feel like we have a really good service that we provide. We are very focused on growing that and making more and more people aware of it. We are going to migrate towards the media that best supports that.

We are not going to change our brand platform or radically change the way we are spending our money, at least I don’t see that in the cards right now. What I can tell you is, and there is going to be technologies that can assist with this,[we are focused on] providing the best possible customer experience that we can.

This doesn’t really fall in the realm of online media or TV, but there are lots of things we can do to provide better service for our customers. We will improve content so [our customers can] make the best informed decision when they are using us, and we set their expectations appropriately. We are really focused on providing the best possible customer experience and we feel that that, in itself, will provide the best marketing for us.

Word-of-mouth is so important in an industry like ours, and in most industries. With the transparency of performance available on the web today, you can’t hide it.If you are not providing a good experience, people are going to find that out and they are not going to select you. We really feel like that’s job one.

Natalie Quinn: What are recent partnerships and sponsorships involved? Hasanything happened since the partnership with NAPO?

Spowart: Not a whole lot is new since NAPO and I am not the partnership person, but some of the larger partnerships that we have are involved with a number of real estate companies such as Remax, Century 21 and Coldwell Banker. We also have a number of relationships with local AAA organizations and we have a strong relationship with the military.

This is a constantly changing area. One of the things that we made a conscience decision to do, is to spend more time cultivating deeper relationships with those that seem most important to our customer base. So, for instance the military, we provide a service that is extremely helpful to them because we are moving and storage combined into one.

A lot of times somebody might get deployed and need to move their stuff into storage. Then they may be relocated to a different area. Well their belongings are already in a PODS container and we can move it for them to wherever they want. In this case, they have been able to accomplish two needs in one by using PODS.

We are really trying to find those types of partnerships. We are partnering with people and organizations that put us in touch with organizations most useful to them.

Natalie Quinn: Who are PODS current key customer segments and audiences?

Spowart: Well, I think I began to mention one. I really feel that there is no better solution, for somebody who is looking for both moving and storage at the same time,than PODS.

This is just because they don’t have to unload and reload and unload and reload if they need storage. So I think anybody who has that specific need is a great match for us. By our estimate, 30-50 percent of the people who are moving need storage along the way.

I would also say that a growing segment is commercial. We didn’t have a super concerted effort on driving commercial business, but when we looked at our customer base we realized there are a lot of commercial people who are finding that the PODS solution is perfect for them. So, with not a ton of effort, we have been able to grow that business pretty strongly.

I would also say, going back to the residential side, that people who are doing renovation, we are a perfect fit for them. They don’t have to take over the garage when they are redoing the floor in their dining room; they can just move their stuff into a PODS container that’s close-by (if they need access to it). People who don’t want the hassle of going back and forth to a self-storage facility: we do all of the driving for them and allow people to pack right at their doorstep.

Natalie Quinn: Does PODS work with any marketing, advertising and communications agencies in addition to help with its outreach? Is PODS still working with Starcom USA?

Spowart: Under the Starcom umbrella we work with two different groups, one is called Spark Communications and they tend to handle both our TV and online media buying.

There is also another group within the Starcom group with is SMGpm, pm standing for Performance Marketing, and they do our search engine marketing. We also have the Richards Group who does our creative and is our lead strategic agency.

Ventura, Calif.-based Consortium Media Services currently works with PODS for PR needs.

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