Considering that the elections are just around the corner, I thought it would be appropriate to revisit a case study evaluation I did earlier this year.
“Slurpees are Delicious Drinks” – President Obama
During a press conference the day after mid-term elections, President Obama was asked if he would hold a “Slurpee Summit” as his first meeting with new Republican leaders. The question was sparked by a previous statement Obama had made, declaring that his Republican rivals sit around “sipping on Slurpees.” He lightheartedly replied, “Slurpees are a delicious drink.” The comment received significant news coverage, all talking about a potential Slurpee Summit to be held by President Obama. Working with Ketchum, 7-Eleven reacted quickly to the comment and within 24 hours had implemented a public relations campaign revolving around his scheduled meeting with Republican leaders. The campaign included: a 3,000 mile Slurpee Unity Tour across the country, a Slurpee Summit in Washington, D.C., Purple Friday – Free Slurpees for America. The campaign was called 7-Eleven Unites America with Purple Slurpees.
Defining the Problem
Over the years, 7-Eleven has received significant negative media coverage regarding gasoline suppliers for their convenience stores in the United States. For example, in 2006 7-Eleven dropped Citgo, a subsidiary of Venezuela’s national oil company, as a supplier after their President Hugo Caves attacked President Bush repeatedly in speeches to the United States. 7-Eleven released a statement immediately after the incident stating that they would be switching to all U.S. gasoline suppliers. Critics believed that the switch in suppliers actually had nothing to do with politics, but rather that 7-Eleven was seeking out a supplier who could sell it the cheapest fuel and that was not Citgo. 7-Eleven needed to reposition their involvement in political issues in a positive light.
President Obama’s comment provided the media coverage needed to draw attention and interest to their brand when they needed it most. Slurpee sees a significant drop in sales during the colder winter months. The convenience stores themselves can often be seen as boring and predictable. The largest problem 7-Eleven faces is brand loyalty. For example, if someone stops at a 7-Eleven each morning for their coffee, it is likely that is only because it is on their way to work. That individual may not even notice the convenience store brand. In order to stay relevant and creative 7-Eleven must continue to generate interest in their brand using public relations to strengthen brand loyalty. Utilizing their niche, the Slurpee brand, 7-Eleven harnessed the media coverage of the Slurpee Summit to increase the “fans” of their store and the Slurpee drink.
- Twitter Monitoring: Immediately following President Obama’s press conference, “Slurpee Summit” began trending on Twitter. The FreskWorks/Ketchum team collected the tweets and analyzed consumer reception to the President’s comments related to the Slurpee brand.
- Analysis of Presidential Mentions: The team assessed the value of other Presidential product mentions. They found that Presidential product mentions are invaluable in themselves and must be capitalized upon immediately in order to be effective for a brand.
The research for this campaign was unusual, because of the given timeframe for this campaign. There was nothing in the write-up that indicated that Edelman used any traditional research methods to create their strategy. Previous campaign case studies indicated that the brand generally relies on measurements of Facebook fans, Twitter mentions etc. to gauge brand awareness.
From their research, the team found that America is divided into conservative “Red States” and liberal “Blues States,” so a new slurp flavor was created mixing red and blue flavors together. The idea was “Purple for the People” to unite all of America. Slurpee is non-partisan and embodies having fun and connecting people. They decided to rework their branding strategy to pin Slurpees as the drink that brings everyone together. An article was published in USA Today to leverage the President’s comments and announce the Slurpee Unity tour. The final day of the tour was to coincide with the schedule meeting between the President and the Republicans in Washington, D.C. – the Slurpee Summit, with free Slurpees and a public music concert.
Although it is not indicated in the write-up, it is clear that the goal for this campaign was to leverage President Obama’s comments to increase awareness of the Slurpee brand. The outline of goals, objectives and tactics was properly outlined. In conjunction with the campaign, 7-Eleven decided they would change their branding strategy to express that Slurpees bring people together. This was not a reaction to research findings, but rather a change that was initiated by the extensive media attention the brand received following President Obama’s comments. Although the objectives were quantifiable, they were not necessarily an indication of the successful rebranding of Slurpees. It would be difficult to gauge how the public awareness of the brand changed following the campaign without further analysis, which was not provided.
- Build a comprehensive public relations campaign to enhance visibility of 7-Eleven’s Slurpee brand through 100 million media impressions and a 15 percent increase in social media followers
- Elevate 7-Eleven Slurpee brand by capitalizing upon the essence of President Obama’s Bipartisan mission — positively aligning Slurpee “Unity” messaging within 50 percent of the media dialogue about the Slurpee Summit and campaign.
- Phase I:Introduction of “Purple for the People” Slurpee flavor and a 3,000-mile “Slurpee Unity Tour” across the country to distribute free samples of the new drink
- An article was published in the USA Today announcing the tour. Major news outlets then picked up the story, referencing President Obama’s comment that Slurpees are “delicious drinks.”
- Phase II:A Slurpee Summit in Washington, D.C. that would coincide with President Obama’s meeting with Republican leaders
- The event was held on the scheduled day of the meeting between President Obama and Republican leaders. It included free Slurpees and live music.
- Phase III:Free Slurpees for Americans on “Purple Friday” (utilized Black Friday – – the post-Thanksgiving Friday that has become a day for holiday shopping deals)
- People could go onto the Slurpee Facebook page and “like” it to receive a coupon for a free small Slurpee.
The Slurpee Unity Tour visited 13 cities over a two-week period, which received both local and national news coverage for the brand. They declared Black Friday as Purple Friday. All Americans were eligible for a free Slurpee with a Facebook coupon. The Facebook page was at the center of the campaign. The page (facebook.com/Slurpee) generated 500,000 fans during the Unity Tour. When President Obama finally had his meeting with the Republicans, press was still referring to it as the “Slurpee Summit.” 7-Eleven also offered to install Slurpee machines at the White House and in Republican Boehner’s office on Capitol Hill or to provide the drinks for a real “Slurpee Summit.”
7-Eleven utilized various communications channels and techniques. Their website featured content about the Unity Tour as well as the Slurpee Summit. All their efforts were centered on the Facebook page. To spread the message of unity and Slurpees, they used traditional print ads as well as news coverage. Social media strategy was implemented to engage with consumers and add to the conversation that was already taking place online about the proposed Slurpee Summit. Hash tags such as “SlurpeeUnity” reinforced the positive messages they came across in their research. They evaluated the effectiveness of their messages when analyzing the consumers’ perception of President Obama’s comments. The methods creatively integrated the ideas of “Purple for the People” and “Slurpee Unity” by reaching out to their publics during the tour. The Slurpee Summit was employed to reach consumers without the use mass media. Their events at state capitals around the country reaffirmed their message on a personal level and got people excited about the brand.
Objective One: The brand has been featured in nearly every major broadcast media outlets and other “inside the beltway” outlets. Notable politicians and talk show hosts were featured on television with Slurpees, and People Magazine indicated the Slurpee tour as a “Top 10 trend” in its “Best of 20120” issue.
Objective Two: Slurpee was positively aligned with the terms “Bipartisanship” and “unity” in 95% of the Slurpee Summit and overall campaign coverage. The brand was never portrayed negatively in regards to any “political turmoil” which is significant due to their previous issues with political news coverage.
The campaign was evaluated based on the number of media impressions, Facebook fans, and Ad value. It can be considered successful, because it reached its objectives and successfully completed all the tactics. There was no indication from the evaluation that suggests new campaign initiatives for the future. From the research I have done on the campaign, I did find a few noticeable issues that could be addressed in the future. Slurpee received some negative press for its image (of teenagers sitting on the street corner with a hot dog and a Slurpee). It needs to work more diligently on its branding, because people found it difficult to associate Slurpees with politics.
Solutions and Recommendations
Slurpee’s Purple Friday took place on Black Friday (the shopping day after Thanksgiving). Many people complained that they should have offered coffee in purple cups instead of Slurpees, because in many parts of the country it was too cold for them. Although this would not have aligned with their goal to promote the Slurpee brand, it would have made more sense for the season. Also, Slurpee recently did a similar Slurpee give away viral marketing campaign using text massaging. I think it would be useful to evaluate how effective these giveaways are to generating brand loyalty.
There is very little to criticize about the actual implementation of the campaign. I did notice in my research, though, that a lot of the press coverage associated with President Obama and the proposed Slurpee Summit was negative. The refreshing slushy drink and politics is an unlikely pair, especially when compared with previous 7-Eleven marketing efforts. In conjunction with The Simpsons Movie, 7-Eleven create several stores modeled after the Kwik-E-Mart. Not only was the news coverage critical of President Obama, but also of the implication of the Slurpee Summit. There is a video clip in which the newscaster is drinking a Slurpee and joking about how unhealthy and silly it is. This most likely did not hurt the brand, but it was certainly overlooked when planning a campaign that essentially pinned President Obama as the brand ambassador.
One of the things they did really well was utilizing the media coverage in a timely and effective manner. Their preliminary research regarding the presence of the “Slurpee Summit” on social media sites was clever, but it was not properly utilized. After the campaign, there was no research or evaluation done to measure opinion or attitude change. It would also have been interesting to compare their fall/winter sales that year to previous years. This would allow them to evaluate if the campaign increased visits to their stores after the Purple Friday Slurpee give-away. Also, there was no research methods employed, due to the reactive nature of the campaign.
Despite the fact that they have over 1 million Facebook likes for their 7-Eleven and Slurpee pages, it doesn’t seem the pages are monitored or updated. The entire wall is fans, random photos, and even inappropriate spam. While it is great that the campaign generated such a following, it is only useful if 7-Eleven continues to engage with their Facebook fans by posting their own original content. If their objective was to gain more followers to their brand, it would make sense for them to continually utilize that fan base.
7-Eleven’s campaign successfully engaged the community before, during and after their campaign. They used Facebook as the page connecting consumers to coupons, photos of the tour, and more. This strategy along with significant media coverage put the 7-Eleven Slurpee brand in the spotlight. Using Twitter they asked questions such as “If you could host a Slurpee Summit with any president, who would it be?” This gave consumers an opportunity to interact with the Slurpee brand in conjunction with the campaign.
The fun interactive website that they used during the campaign is still up: www.slurpee.com. It featured links to all their social media pages as well as information about upcoming events. It is not evident from the webpage if the campaign made a difference in the life of the company. I think it is important to note, though, that they continue to offer new flavors through creative marketing tactics. 7-Eleven is doing well, because of their successful public relations. I learned that it is important to be aware of current events and news coverage of your brand; knowing what people are saying about your company provides opportunities such as this campaign.
Rather than being a boring, predictable chain, 7-Eleven is re-branded as fun, creative and relevant. The Unity America campaign was a success, because it was timely and combined traditional, online and social media to engage the community.
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Obama’s Slurpee Summit Joke Inspires 7-Eleven. CBS News. Web. 20 Feb. 2012. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/11/11/ap/national/main7044555.shtml
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