[UPDATE: You can hear more from Polaris and Holly Spaeth at the annual SXSW Conference in Austin. Holly will be speaking on the panel, "When Quickies Aren't Satisfying: Loyalty on Social," taking place Friday, March 13 from 5-6pm at the Radisson Hotel (111 Cesar Chavez and Congress) in the Riverside Ballroom. In fact, you can join Oracle, Polaris, General Motors and many more brands and thought leaders during Oracle's SXSW event all day Friday at the Radisson.]
How does a company convert "likes" into dollars? Most businesses are acutely aware of the importance of social marketing for customer service and brand awareness. As this recent McKinsey report shows, businesses understand the importance of social tools but are still struggling to maximize their potential. A recent Forrester report showed that a majority of businesses aren’t leveraging social listening to uncover actionable business insights.
There are, however, some companies that are ahead of the curve and using social to enable key parts of their business from marketing to service to commerce to research and development. Minnesota-based Polaris, maker of riding machines like snowmobiles, ATVs and motorcycles, and an Oracle Social customer, is one such innovative company.
The winning design for the Pink Ribbon Riders Campaign
“Polaris is a customer-centric organization—we believe deeply in putting the customer at the center of everything we do,” said Holly Spaeth, Manager of Interactive Media and Content at Polaris Industries. “Social is a central part to customer centricity, as it’s an arena where we can listen, learn and engage directly with our passionate fan base to make customer- and data-driven business decisions.”
At Polaris, social listening and engagement got into full swing in early 2012. In fact, it was a simple t-shirt campaign that showed the Polaris executives how listening and learning from social communities could benefit their business.
The company had launched a brand-new Victory logo and wanted to generate awareness during the annual Sturgis Rally, including creating a new t-shirt design campaign. They had an agency design three concepts and asked their Facebook fans to vote on their favorite. Surprisingly, instead of a focus on voting, the fans overwhelming disapproved of the t-shirt designs. Consumers said the t-shirts didn’t “feel” like the Victory brand. They offered suggestions, including how to better showcase the Victory logo. Polaris took the feedback and redesigned a new t-shirt that garnered fan praise, as well as strong awareness at the Sturgis event.
“It was just feedback on a t-shirt but it showed us the power of engaging and learning from our customers. We now apply that simple concept to marketing campaigns, product colors, accessories and even new product design. Social insights are being shared across the company and making a positive business impact regularly.”
In early 2014, when Polaris was developing a color scheme for the new Victory Gunner motorcycle, they went straight to social and let the fans decide.
“We are quite literally co-creating with our customers, seeking their input and knowledge around likes, dislikes, wants and desires,” said Spaeth. “And they get inspired and passionate about being heard—especially around product and accessory colors. Color plays a big role and is an ongoing and important theme across our social channels.”
In late 2012, Polaris started seeing social conversations and themes around the term “pink.” The conversations were correlating around breast cancer, Pink Ribbon Riders, and an interest in pink-styled designed snowmobiles.
“When the pink themes and conversations started across social we began to take notice. We continued to listen and monitor the increasing volume and positive sentiment and realized there was something there.”
But before actually executing on an idea, Polaris tested “pink” during the annual “snowcheck period,” a six-week period where consumers could pre-order custom sleds in select colors, and this time pink was offered. “Pink correlated and resulted in strong sales. So although ‘pink’ went against the traditional grain, we followed the data and connected with our R&D team to create something bigger around this idea of pink,” said Spaeth.
What Polaris created was more than a new product idea; they tied the “pink” theme around a charity campaign and sponsorship with the Pink Ribbon Riders, an organization dedicated to help women and men with breast cancer.
“We executed a consumer-generated snowmobile custom design to support the Pink Ribbon Riders. Social insights were helping make decisions on a new charity partner, as well as a consumer-focused and engaging campaign.”
In the spring of 2014, Polaris launched its Pink Ribbon Rider Wrap campaign on Facebook, where consumers generated the designs and voted on the winner. A portion of the proceeds went to benefit the Pink Ribbon Riders. Thousands of social fans participated but it was Cassandra from St. Paul, MN that had the winning design.
“The reaction to the entire Pink Ribbon Riders Wrap campaign was tremendous, including a strong interest with our dealers and partners,” Spaeth added.
“We recap our social and digital insights weekly across departments and, together with other customer data, use it as a guide to make better business decisions for marketing to services to sales to product development. And Product Development is always interested in what our social fans are saying to help with everything from product naming, design, color, accessories and more.”