CHICAGO -- The National Automatic Merchandising Association launched its wide-reaching Industry Growth Strategy at its OneShow in April and officials say the effort is paying off.
The five-week, seven-city Gratitude Tour -- a major component of the program -- wrapped up in October, drawing more than 40,000 consumers around the country with a hands-on display of the latest machines, products and technology. NAMA said the Gratitude Tour tractor-trailer traveled for more than 125 hours, covering more than 7,000 miles and reaching an estimated 225,000 additional consumers who saw it rolling down the highways of America.
The goal of the vending roadshow was to thank loyal users of vending machines, reinforce that vending delivers what consumers want, when they want it and where they want it, and put consumers in front of machines. A major catalyst for the tour was recent NAMA research that found Gen Y prefers vending to convenience stores and grocery and drug stores for snacks and cold beverages.
The tour displayed vending machines and unattended retail markets in high-traffic, outdoor venues in Boston, New York City, Atlanta, Austin, TX, Phoenix, Minneapolis and Madison, WI. Consumers were invited to sample products and interact with the machines and technology. They were also encouraged to stop by a social media tent where they could get free t-shirts for entering the Vend.Love.Win. Facebook contest. Local entertainment and giveaways of thousands of free vending products added to the festivity.
NAMA praised vending operators from around the country for supporting the Gratitude Tour by lending a hand at the events and utilizing the tools provided by NAMA to promote the tour and the IGS Facebook contest -- Vend.Love.Win. -- at their local levels.
"Standing next to the 2bU machine all day, I heard several students commenting about how they had to come see the machine because they had been messaged by their friends about it on Facebook," said Chris McCarten, district general manager of Canteen Vending, who participated in the Madison, WI, event. "Our clients [the University of Wisconsin] were thrilled with the excitement of the students. We believe this event will lead to new placements of machines on campus."
In addition those attending the events, millions more consumers have heard about the Gratitude Tour and the latest developments in vending through extensive national and local media coverage, according to officials.
NAMA reported that creating a "vendialogue" with vending users is another core IGS strategy that has been achieved. The campaign has built that "interactive buzz" through social media, websites, blogs and Web feeds designed to appeal particularly to the younger generation. Through coverage in both online and traditional, mainstream media, the program has reached not only millions of Gen Y consumers but also millions of Gen Xers, Baby Boomers, legislative audiences and industry leaders, according to NAMA.
"We couldn't be more pleased with the results so far of the IGS program and the extremely positive nature of the media coverage. We look forward to building on these successes," said Dan Mathews, NAMA interim chief executive. "In addition, we are exceedingly grateful for the dozens of operators, suppliers and manufacturers who stepped up to help with the Gratitude Tour in a big way, from providing machines and displays for the tour to donating thousands of free products, to sending manpower to help on-site at the events."