Worth The ‘Hassel’

Cumberland Farms turns a unique theft problem into a marketing campaign on its social media sites.

By Megan Wilkinson, Assistant Editor

Cumberland Farms stores launched a promotion of its iced coffee featuring David Hasselhoff as its spokesman last month, and it garnered instant attention from its customers…maybe too much attention.

The chain decided to place life-size Hasselhoff cutouts at 570 of its stores. However, customers enjoyed the ads so much, that close to 550 of those cutouts were stolen almost immediately.

Headquartered in Framingham, Mass., Cumberland Farms operates nearly 600 convenience stores in 11 states along the East Coast. While it would be easy for the company to get frustrated over a situation such as this, the chain decided to have some fun with the promotion by remaining composed and controlling the situation. Although the company doesn’t promote theft or excuse the behavior of those involved, they see the situation as an opportunity to connect with customers through social media.

Kate Ngo, senior manager of brand strategy at Cumberland Farms, said the campaign has been a success in terms of building buzz, awareness, media coverage and driving iced coffee sales.

“This is the first time we’ve done a campaign of this scope, and it’s paid off,” Ngo said. “We’ve been very flattered by the enthusiasm of our customers for the campaign.”

National Attention

If the Cumberland promotion was designed to promote the company and its products, then mission accomplished. The company has been featured on CNN and the Today Show for this phenomenon, not to mention the hundreds of customers who risked arrest to swipe to a promotional cutout of the former Baywatch star.

Cumberland Farms has kept the campaign’s momentum going by replacing signs and tweeting about the program. Ngo said the company has not found any of the stolen signs, but has encouraged customers to #showoffyourhoff via Twitter, by posting photos of the stolen signs.

“It’s been all over the place,” Gwen Forman, vice president of marketing for Cumberland Farms, said of the campaign and its consequences.

Forman said Cumberland Farms has dealt with sign thefts before for its Chill Zone frozen beverage product, though never to this degree. And they would certainly like the thefts to stop. The company has been asking customers and fans to refrain from taking the signs through Facebook and Twitter. They also requested that the guilty parties share proof that their cardboard Hasselhoff is “safe.”

Cumberland Farms offers hot and cold coffee drinks for 99 cents in all sizes, every day. Hasselhoff began promoting the company’s iced coffee products in June. He promoted the company’s Farmhouse Blend coffee on TV ads, poll signs and online. The company chose the Hasselhoff picture for its stores knowing that not everyone would love the promotion, but everyone would notice.

“He’s a great comedic performer, so it was a natural fit,” Ngo said. “Because of the media coverage associated with the signs being stolen, the campaign has taken on a life of its own far beyond the ad.”

Cumberland Farms has experienced an increase in coffee sales with the campaign. Ngo said summer is a great time of year for this sort of campaign—it’s when more customers are on the road and are more willing to hop in stores for beverages and snacks when filling up their cars.

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