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Beyond Branding to the Lovemark: A Case Study of Camp Marketing to Generations Y and Z
Many camps create a respite from the pace of the modern world with their programs. But, in terms of marketing, there seems to be no escape from the information deluge. It is estimated that people in the United States consume twelve hours of information-based content per day (Bohn & Short, 2010). Finding space to communicate an effective message is daunting. Camps have fewer opportunities and less time to deliver the core message effectively. The consumers of Generation Y (born in the late 1970s and early 1980s), and their children, Generation Z, are much busier and more impatient with shorter attention spans. The successful camp will gain and hold the attention of their target market. This article describes how one camp put the marketing concepts of “lovemark” and “passion brand” into action.
Roberts (2004) describes today’s consumers as having more trust in their friends’ opinions than what a company tells them. In most cases, businesses are no longer in control of the branding message. Information is easy to access, and people can poll their friends instantly. There are many choices, so consumers can demand something tailored specifically for them. The expectations for customer service are higher, and an unhappy customer will certainly tell others of the unhappy encounter. The challenge is to harness connectivity and celebrate when consumers share a positive story. Encourage them to tell others why they “love” a product or service. Of course, it all has to start with a product or service for which they care deeply. Passion brand refers to a company that does something that is good for people in a way that connects emotionally with the consumer (Edwards & Day, 2005). Furthermore, passion brands conduct their business with “imagination, integrity, and guts” (p. 2). That sounds a lot like camp, right? Let’s explore how corporations approach marketing and then place it in context with camp.
Why Are Brands Not Enough? What Is a Lovemark?
Brands are losing their impact (Roberts, 2004). More people have grown to expect optimal performance from products, services, and experiences. Saatchi & Saatchi (2013) provides answers to the question, “What makes some brands inspirational, while others struggle?”
Lovemarks transcend brands. They deliver beyond your expectations of great performance. Like great brands, they sit on top of high levels of respect — but the similarities end there.
Lovemarks reach your heart as well as your mind, creating an intimate, emotional connection that you just can’t live without. Ever.
Take a brand away and people will find a replacement. Take a lovemark away and people will protest its absence. Lovemarks are a relationship, not a mere transaction. You don’t just buy love¬marks, you embrace them passionately. That’s why you never want to let go.
Put simply, lovemarks inspire. (para. 2)
Figure 1 illustrates the goal of achieving love and respect from the consumer. When love and respect connect, there is a zone where the consumer cares very deeply based on their experience with the brand. There must be superior quality and customer service to achieve this nexus.
To progress from brand awareness to loyalty, ask questions that can prompt pro¬ductive soul searching and deep thinking about why you do what you do (see Figure 2). These questions push us to think beyond ourselves and look for ways to connect with the consumer. For camper families (the consumers) to connect in lovemark fashion with a camp’s brand, the reaction needs to come straight from the heart (Roberts, 2004). In the past, camp marketing focused on the product: the camp experience. In this age, the prevalent consumer question is “How will camp impact the future of my child and improve my life?” Considering Figure 1 again, moving beyond products (low love, low respect) and brands (low love, high respect) to lovemarks (high love, high respect) is the task of camps as they position themselves to meet today’s consumer demands.
Case Study: Camp Future Stars
Camp is a relatively new youth experience for most families to consider in the country of Turkey. So marketing and introducing the ideas of an intentional youth develoment experience is critical to the success of Camp Future Stars (CFS) (Gelece in Yıldızları in Turkish). During its first decade, CFS focused primarily on providing a professionally operated, year-round basketball program for youth and summer residential sports camps. As the popularity of the camp’s basketball programs increased, so did the competition from other sports programs. To maintain their programming and marketing edge, Fahrettin Gozet and his two brothers, Murat Gozet and Osman Gozet, participated in various American Camp Association (ACA) conferences and educational programs, visited many camps in the United States and Canada, and developed an extensive library of ACA resources. Although other camps were emerging in Turkey that provided stronger market competition, CFS began to utilize a corporate marketing strategy to promote their camps. Without a Turkish camp culture or the constraints of traditional practices, the camp employed innovative methods to achieve remarkable enrollment growth. The growth is credited to a three-part strategy: program innovation, solution partnerships, and outsourcing (see Figure 3).
Although CFS began as a sports program, the variety of activities now offered has grown far beyond athletics. The directors of CFS continually ask, “What’s next?” and “What’s new?” The staff are encouraged to keep innovating in order to match the changing needs and lifestyles of their campers. More camper-driven programs have been added (such as cooking, photography, videography, language skills, leadership, etc.), allowing more individualized choices in specialized focus areas, additional skills, and competencies, which are transferable to campers’ daily lives. Expanded programs are then made visible to campers’ parents and friends through viral marketing. Operational excellence and effective communication supersede everything else in the marketing plan. Campers must see the connections between life at camp and life at home to understand that camp is a vital experience that builds their skill set.
Corporate sponsorships have not only provided financial support, but use of CFS logos on Web sites, printed mate-rials, and in the media has maximized exposure of the brand. Sponsorships by such major companies as Mercedes (camp transportation), Sony (camp technology), and Mapfre (camp insurance) are in place. Care has been taken to select only sponsors that are of the highest quality and those that are socially and culturally acceptable. It is important to provide a positive association with camp and youth development.
CFS has intentionally avoided purchasing property for its programs. Camp housing and facilities are contracted at hotels (for example, a ski hotel that is empty in the summer) or schools (during school breaks) that meet the careful scrutiny and specifications for each program. Food service, maintenance, laundry, and transportation are all outsourced to companies with proven excellence in their services. Although the camps are located outside the U.S. and cannot be accredited by the American Camp Association, CFS uses the content from the Accreditation Process Guide to provide guidelines for all aspects of camp operations and programs.
Program instruction for many areas is subcontracted to organizations that specialize and provide appropriate certifica-tions for their instructors. By outsourcing, the directors and staff are free to focus on the staff and campers without the distractions of maintaining the infrastructure or micromanaging program instructors. The concept is to partner with others who are specialists within their industry.
CFS’s Marketing Plan
Database communication: Use of printed materials (catalogs, brochures, posters) has been reduced in recent years but is still available for selected situations. Emphasis is placed on HTML e-mails to 25,000 addresses. Text messages are used sparingly to the 4,000 families perceived as the strongest contacts; messages inform them about registration deadlines and incentives (as insiders, if you will).
School promotions: Special cooperative relationships have been established with schools that cater to the target demo-graphic. They are provided with brochures, posters, and displays and are offered group discounts or scholarships.
Newspaper inserts: Every year, brochures are inserted in daily newspapers of the neighborhoods of target families to catch the interest of new prospective families and build brand recognition.
Marketing to major corporations: Cooperative arrangements with the human resources departments of multinational corporations have brought strong results.
Group discounts for staff are provided for the privilege of distributing promotional packages, intranet e-mail to families, or group meetings. New corporate customers include the U.S. Embassy, Nestlé, Sutas, Hewlett-Packard, and Sony.
Agency agreements: Three companies in three major Turkish cities act as agents for promotion and registration. The agencies are paid a 10 percent commission and have increased their registration numbers by 75 percent since 2007. This arrangement increases trust because of the local connection of these agencies.
Public relations: By outsourcing a professional public relations company to create the camp’s public image and coordinate media relations, CFS has been positioned as a market leader and spokesperson for the camp industry in Turkey. CFS served as the organizer and founder of the Turkish Camping Association for the good of all camp programs in Turkey.
Exhibitions: There are no camp fairs in Turkey at this time, but a presence at certain exhibitions, such as boat shows and lifestyle fairs, has proven to be valuable. Huge exhibitions that feature banks, tele¬com companies, or other large corporations have not been effective.
Cooperating with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs): Reciprocal efforts with NGOs and foundations that focus on issues like nature or water resource preservation have been mutually beneficial.
Magazine advertising: Although magazine advertising has not been cost-effective, occasional use has been helpful in building the brand and keeping sponsors engaged. In general, advertisements are not enough for parents to make a decision to send their children to camp. Positive, factual, well-positioned articles in major magazines have been crucial to the camp’s public image. A July 2012 feature article in Forbes (Turkey) generated considerable interest.
Sponsorships/Partnerships: Partnerships with respected corporations have been used with great success, and they are considered a win-win for all concerned. Camp is a good product, and the benefits of a camp experience are strongly promoted. Sponsors view themselves as offering life experiences rather than selling camps. CFS develops marketing campaigns and offers the companies new ideas to maximize the partnership, positioning them as an allied group of companies. For example, in summer 2012, a camp experience was the “prize” for a contest that featured camp on 5.5 million boxes of Nesquik products. The CFS logo was on the boxes as the organizer / outsource camp company because Nestlé thought it would be a good reference and motivation for families to know that camp is being organized by a quality youth development organization.
Internet: Understanding how to connect with the people in your target demographic via the Internet is essential. Using the techniques of reachability, search engine optimization, and Google Adwords helps connect content of interest to CFS’s specific prospects through carefully chosen meta tags and search terms.
Using Social Media Effectively
Digital is a culture, not just another marketing channel. CFS has built the infrastructure for their own campers by creating a digital meeting point (on Facebook) for groups and posting photos and videos from camp. This allows campers to comment and share their best moments from camp. A group of campers designated as “Facebook Ambassadors” has taken the lead in communications on the digital platform. For teens who have not yet experienced the camp, photos and videos from camp (posted by their friends) grab their attention and increase their interest in attending.
Through social media marketing, CFS’s number of “likes” has increased, and the new feature of “promote” has shown positive effects. In spring 2013, CFS had 30,000 Facebook fans and more than one million visitors. This enlarged “playground” is ideal for storytelling, allowing the camp (and, more importantly, the campers) to tell the right stories at the right time to the right people. The epitome of a lovemark is when the consumer tells your story because they have to share the positive impact the brand has on their life (Roberts, 2006). The best form of loyalty is to convince someone else to join you. Members of generations Y and Z listen to their friends the most, so a platform for them to share is crucial.
In a country where camp is not common¬place, CFS has moved from developing a recognized brand to becoming a lovemark by applying a corporate approach to traditional camp marketing. At the heart of passion brands and lovemarks is a service that people believe in because of their personal experience. The first step in creating a lovemark is investing in a quality program. Then, you must harness the power of that experience by telling the story.
CFS has raised a generation of leaders who are now poised to take on leadership positions within the growing program. The leadership team is eager to leave their comfort zone and strive for growth. By implementing cost-saving strategies, a new financial system, increasing efficiency, and channeling the energy of their customers into their marketing and sales strategy, CFS is moving into the future.
Authors’ Note: This article uses the concept of lovemark that was coined by Kevin Roberts, founder of Saatchi & Saatchi, the Lovemarks Company, and describes how CFS put the ideas into action. The authors encourage readers to explore the concepts of lovemarks and passion branding by following the steps outlined in the books in the reference list to make the content blend with their mission, goals, and philosophy.
Camp Future Stars (CFS) (Geleceğin Yıldızları in Turkish) was founded in 1989 and is based in Istanbul, Turkey. CFS currently operates camps in various locations in Turkey (fourteen camps offering twelve programs), including: International Summer Camp, International Basketball Camp, English in Action, Film-Making Camp, Alacati Windsurfing Camp, and more, as well as the ski and snowboarding camps run in Turkey and in Switzerland during the winter. This summer, a day camp program will launch in Istanbul. The camps have experienced steady enrollment growth since 2004, serving more than 1,900 children in the summer of 2012. Never satisfied with maintaining the status quo, camp founder Fahrettin Gozet and his two brothers, Murat Gozet and Osman Gozet, thrive on internal competition to move CFS to a new level. Employing the latest in marketing techniques and positioning CFS as a lovemark, the staff established four more camps in 2013, with growth of 40 percent. They target an additional 40 percent growth in 2014 and 20 percent growth by 2015. They are confident that sustainable growth is not a dream.
Bohn, R. & Short, J.E. (2010). How much information? A report on the American Consumer. Global Information Industry Center. University of California-San Diego.
Edwards, H. & Day, D. (2005). Creating passion brands: Getting to the heart of branding. Sterling, VA: Kogan Page Limited.
Roberts, K (2004). Lovemarks: The future beyond brands. Brooklyn, NY: Powerhouse Books.
Roberts, K. (2006). The lovemarks effect: Winning in the consumer. Brooklyn, NY: Powerhouse Books.
Saatchi & Saatchi. (2013). How do I know a lovemark? Retrieved from www.lovemarks.com/index.php?pageID=20020
Fahrettin Gözet is the founder and senior director of Camp Future Stars (www.geleceginyildizlari.com). He is a member of the board and chair of the Development Committee of the International Camping Fellowship, a founding member of the European Camps Association, and the founding president of the Basketball Camps Association of Turkey. He also serves as the founding president of Turkish Camps Association. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gwynn Powell, PhD, has joined the faculty in the Park, Recreation, and Tourism Management (PRTM) Department at Clemson University, specializing in youth development camps, after twelve years at the University of Georgia. She has been an active volunteer with ACA at the local and national levels and has two decades of experience with day and resident camp, as well as recent experience with camp programs in Russia, Turkey, and South Africa. She has fallen in “love” with Camp Future Stars. She can be contacted at email@example.com.
Linda Grier Pulliam is a retired executive of ACA, Virginias, and was a camp director for twenty-seven years. She has served on the board of the International Camping Fellowship for the past eighteen years as the membership chair, and she is the international coordinator for ACA. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Utku Toprakseven graduated from Koc University, Istanbul, before joining the Camp Future Stars management team (www.geleceginyildizlari.com). He completed the International Camp Director Course and Train the Trainers programs through the International Camping Fellowship. Toprakseven completed his MBA at Imperial College in London and joined the company “4 global” as a senior consultant, where he has been involved in the management of major sports events in the UK (including the 2012 Olympics), Scotland, Azerbaijan, and Spain.
Originally published in the 2013 July/August Camping Magazine