What was once a rural convenience store that offered the usual fare of soda, beef jerky, Twinkies and chips has transformed itself into an upscale gluten-free bakery with the help of innovative marketing solutions, thanks to its former owner, Mary Magdalena. Mary bought the lackluster small-town shop, restored it back to its roots as an Old West general store, and then stocked it with local produce and meats, as well as her own home-baked goods.
To grow brand awareness, Mary turned to a distinctive logo that gave visual pop to her goods’ labels. She also promoted her brand by giving away stickers bearing her logo to bikers and tourists who stream through the scenic route to enjoy the breathtaking mountain views near Boulder, Colorado. Those stickers have become popular with cyclists, who slap them on their bikes, and with techies, who affix them to their laptops. This low-cost marketing tool spread the word about Mary’s homegrown goodness all across the Denver-Boulder area.
A few years ago, Mary, who is gluten-intolerant, perfected gluten-free recipes for breads, muffins–even pie crusts—to transform her local foodie haven into a gluten-free zone. To call attention to the new direction she wanted to take her brand, she commissioned an eye-grabbing sticker featuring her logo, but in a different color, to call people’s attention to the gluten-free items.
To go with the stickers she handed out, she provided free home-baked cookies to cyclists. They felt welcomed, and passed the good will along. They became her brand evangelists. When one reads social media reviews of Mary’s, one can feel the love her fans had for her—a love that motivated them to take time out of their day to write rave reviews.
With her low-cost marketing tactic, Mary could spend more money to perfect her gluten-free recipes—always a challenge, since baking gluten-free requires a carefully blended mix of several types of flours. Yet if her customers’ tributes to her brand are accurate, she succeeded in setting her brand apart from the bland gluten-free products one finds in most natural food markets. According to several reviewers, Mary’s gluten-free pie crust tastes better than any pie crust they have ever tasted.
With her innovative marketing, Mary has introduced many enthusiasts to gluten-free products who would never have heard of this little shop, tucked away as it is in a small town. The stickers created conversations with brand evangelists, who recommended Mary’s to those with whom they spoke. When those friends popped into Mary’s for a visit, their skepticism about gluten-free products melted away as soon as her fresh chocolate chip cookies melted into their mouths. From that moment on, most of them were hooked.
Mary’s also distributed complimentary gluten-free home-baked energy bars to competitors in endurance rides. This gesture of good will, it seems, was repaid five-fold as bikers, hikers, and tourists poured into her store.
Her marketing efforts transformed this former convenience store into a fixture of the local food scene, so much so that Mary was able to sell the thriving business in March, 2015. The new owners, a local organic farm eager to capitalize on Mary’s reputation, kept Mary’s trademark gluten-free recipes, but added organic grass-fed, humanely processed meats to their staple offerings.
To help other struggling businesses who want to offer healthy choices to food consumers, Mary offers sound advice. She suggests that gluten-free businesses attach their gluten-free stickers to their business card. The design and color should be consistent, she advises. “Keep repeating your key color everywhere,” she said in an article that showcased her success story. With a consistent logo, familiarity with the brand builds. As the brand’s reputation grows, free samples turn those curious about the product into fans—and more importantly, brand evangelists.