Marketing is an essential tool to get customers through the door and keeping them coming back, especially in a competitive market.
So putting together a good marketing plan, targeted at the right customers with good-quality point-of-sale (PoS) material makes a big difference.
Thwaites marketing manager Toni Naylor says the golden rule of any marketing is to ensure there is a goal. She says there are three main areas that the majority of marketing works to achieve – to increase the frequency of visits, increase dwell time and increase spend.
“Each idea or event that we are looking at will have different objectives of what we are trying to achieve,” she says.
“It could be that the pub has a quiet night and the aim is to increase frequency of visits. We always start with that and work backwards.”
She says any design of material has to reflect the type of pub and fit in with the messaging. It is also important not to overwhelm the customer with too much information. She says: “We use items like banners quite a lot because, against the backdrop of the pub, they are quite noticeable and bold.”
She also advises licensees to look at “pivotal” areas of the pub, such as where people’s eyes naturally gravitate in order to position any marketing material correctly.
Being a bit different and quirky with marketing can also help to promote a certain element of a pub such as its function rooms.
“In one of our pubs we tried to attract local businesses. We produced some cardboard boxes with branding along the outside and put shortbread in them and gave them out,” she says. “Once the customers had eaten the shortbread biscuits the box became a pen pot on their desk. When the local businesses are looking at booking rooms, hopefully, it will push them to use our pub.”
Hair of the dog
Branding has also been an area of focus for Emma Manford at the Black Dog pub, in Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire. When she took the pub on with partner Colin Manford, she decided that using the Black Dog silhouette branding was essential to tie in all its marketing.
The pub has two approaches to marketing – traditional and digital. The pub uses chalkboards outside the pub to market events and the pub to the local community. She says: “The traditional approach does not cost us much and I am lucky that all my staff are fantastic with chalk pens.”
She also designs posters and uses PoS in the pub to highlight events and other initiatives. “In the early days, I was so worried about the budget. I downloaded some free apps on my phone and made the best out of them. But they were not the quality that we wanted,” she says.
But once the pub was up and running, she took the decision to use a designer. She provides him with the ideas of what PoS she wants and he turns it into the desired item. “We think the same and he works quickly – and is not super expensive,” she says.
The pub also works digitally, building a community such as Facebook. While both PoS and Facebook are important tools, the Black Dog has taken this to a level further with some more creative marketing.
Wheel of gin
To promote gin in the pub, Manford has developed a gin wheel, which allows people to choose their type of gin and mixers. “People want to feel that they are involved in ordering the drinks. They want to feel like they are being adventurous and want to feel that they know a bit about it,” she says. “You move each component and get a different drink every time.”
But whatever the marketing initiative, it is crucial to plan with plenty of time, she advises. “I am already planning for next year, especially around live music and other events,” she says.
Planning is something that is crucial for multiple operator Dianne Irving.
She runs two pubs in Cumbria, the White Mare at Beckermet and the Crown near Carlisle. The pubs are focused on different clientele and therefore have different marketing plans, but with the same principles.
“It is going back to the golden rules of inside, outside and online,” says Irving.
She keeps copies of industry magazines such as The Morning Advertiser and reads them for marketing inspiration. Working with the managers of the pubs, she compiles a list of ideas that they can market at the pubs. “It is about looking through the magazines and finding ideas then seeing what ties in. We do that at each pub. Some are more relevant to one than another,” she says.
The Crown is on a route into the town of Carlisle so outside marketing for passing trade is of much more benefit than it is at the White Mare, which is a food-led village pub.
“We use table toppers showing what events are coming up. We have a format for them and all tables advertise different event,” she says. The table toppers and posters are designed in-house for cost-effectiveness and speed.
“We keep the same format because people are used to it but we change the colour scheme, which is dead simple,” Irving explains. “It is easy and takes 10 minutes to do and we can change them as regularly as we want.”
Poseurs at the bar
Licensee Stuart Fox at the White Horse in Dover, Kent, recently won the top accolade of Best Marketing Initiative at the Ei Excellence Awards. He says that using a negative and turning it into a positive for marketing can be a useful tool to promote the pub. He saw a Google review of his pub online saying: “Expensive, more of a restaurant than a pub, poseurs sat on the bar.”
Instead of being concerned about the review he took a screenshot and put it on social media. He asked customers to come in and be #poseursathebar. And with the added benefit of chalkboard encouragement, many customers came in and had their pictures taken at the bar.
Regular and constant marketing is a strategy that the White Horse in Dover, Kent, supports. Licensee Stuart Fox, who runs the pub with partner Julian Crowley, argues that any marketing message has to be fun and upbeat.
Fox says he is not a fan of too much PoS and posters scattered around the pub because these can look “naff”. “We don’t like to look too cluttered. So a lot of PoS will be cards that sit on the bar,” he says
While the pub does not allow clutter, it still designs posters to promote events such as psychic nights. He pays a designer to produce the posters, which are then used online for promotion.
He also has three to four chalkboards on site and uses a professional artist to add designs to them. “I was doing them myself but it was becoming quite hard work to think up different, quirky things every day,” he says.
One area where the pub does use traditional PoS material is with its specialist drink menus, which include a gin menu, rum menu and wine menu.
However, these do not need to be costly. The pub has its own wine and spirits supplier who designs the menus for them.
“We are good customers. We buy a lot of wine, Prosecco and spirits, and we put the idea to them,” he says.
Using suppliers for PoS material is a clever move that can help keep costs low. Many drink and food suppliers will be happy to help produce posters and PoS if the pub is a good customer.
Drinks supplier Hi-Spirits, for example, has its own house marketing and design studio, which helps produce tailored support quickly.
Hi-Spirits managing director Dan Bolton says: “That includes drinks menus, posters, table talkers, bar runners, staff uniforms, branded serve ware such as glasses, mugs and jars, customer loyalty cards, and anything else that’s needed.”
Working with the specialists at Gin Foundry, Hi-Spirits has designed a special gin range of PoS.
These include a gin flavour map that spotlights the wide range of flavour and variations that different botanicals bring to gin, flavour wheels and brand presenters for each gin, and tasting maps to enable bar staff and customers to compare and contrast the flavours of the different gins.
Whatever the message, pubs need to keep their eye on every marketing opportunity. PoS material, from posters to well-designed chalkboards, can highlight a pub’s offer to potential customers. Marketing can be a costly investment so using any suppliers can also help with the promotional activity.