As markets and opportunities for vending equipment shrink, and the competitive landscape to find them increases, operators find themselves in situations that require smarter and smarter promotions and selling. Savvy operators are not only looking for ways to do vertical marketing in every location, but they are seeking to make their locations more secure.
One of the most effective tools for marketing right now is branding. Branding may be a business buzzword, but it "buzzes" for one simple reason -- it works. Branding gives companies a way to go from generic to outstanding. Branding will set an operator apart from the crowd, which uses similar equipment to vend more or less the same products.
There are many ways to brand. You can have custom graphics designed for equipment that incorporate an your own logo and even basic information into the design. You can add decals with your logo to each piece of equipment instead of just a tiresome business card-size name and phone number.
To achieve an even greater branding effect, you can offer equipment that is tailored specifically for your locations. This requires a little bit of an investment, including spending time with location management to get the graphics done to their liking. The effort is well worth it; now you have gone from a guy who simply wants to put a machine in the front end of a location to a professional who is helping to design fixtures for the location that not only adds entertainment value for their customers, but also reflects positively on the location's image.
Offering branded equipment can also benefit operators who are going after hard-to-get locations. Chain stores, high-end malls and franchises that previously eschewed coin-operated devices for their incongruous appearance when onsite are now open to equipment that blends seamlessly into the existing décor.
Additionally, branding can have a big part in custom promotions, and strengthen the relationship between operator and location. For instance, you can use your vending equipment to promote a specific product, event or something else that is important to the location at any time. Branding in effect inserts the operator into a location's marketing consciousness and as a result reinforces the importance of his or her service.
There are no guarantees in the coin-op industry. But whatever you can do to make your equipment a little more exciting, a little more appealing and a little more flexible is going to make you a lot more important to a location. There are some operators who think branded equipment and services will make little difference, but I get enough phone calls every week that suggest it is becoming more and more important in the marketplace. As a result, machine lines made by my company, OK Manufacturing, can easily and inexpensively be branded or themed for operators' requirements or to match a location's décor or support a promotion.
It's important to note that no operation is too small to brand. The technology needed to create professional branding materials has changed dramatically over the past decade. Printing processes, for example, have made great strides in price and quality. An operator no longer needs a 50+ store chain to make professional-looking machines with logos and precisely matched colors; it can now be done cost-effectively for a single location. Neither does it require any great expertise to order the customized machines straight from the factory. Today it takes only a few high-volume locations to justify the added expense. For an increasing number of operators, it is an expense that pays for itself in the long run.
HEIDI OLSEN-HUGHEY has spent most of her professional life been in sales, marketing and management. For the past 10 years, she has served in that capacity at OK Manufacturing (Salt Lake City), where she has been involved with numerous branding, promotional and location-specific projects. She may be reached at (800) 748-5480 or firstname.lastname@example.org.