One of the most creative marketers in Ohio isn’t the CEO of a high-powered marketing agency. Rather, he is the third-generation CEO of a Cleveland-area candy company, Malley’s Chocolates. Meet Dan Malley, whose innovative marketing tactics include a bumper sticker campaign that does not only promote his growing chain of 17 candy stores, but also allows customers to get a piece of the action—literally.
For years now, Malley, whose family has been in the candy business since 1935, has created candy-colored pink-and-green oval bumper stickers with the word “CHOC” imprinted on them. The distinctive branding, in its candy-coated splendor, creates a desire for Malley’s Chocolates in people who see the stickers on the back end of others’ cars.
But that’s not all. Customers who attach the oval bumper stickers to their own cars—and are spotted by a Malley’s employee will win a $25 gift certificate for the candy maker’s creations. No wonder the oval designs are spotted all over town. Not only that, but one of those customers so spotted each month will receive $500 in cash. Not only does Malley promote his business with the stickers, but he also promotes his customers. How can Clevelanders not fall in love with such a well-marketed business, particularly when it is giving away free candy?
Malley is a genius for putting his order form for the sticker on the company website. While one is busy filling out the order form, the website’s prominent display of the word “chocolate” in all caps shouts “Buy Me.” While ordering merchandise that helps Malley market his chocolates, a customer is usually enticed to fill out an order form for her or his favorite while s/he’s on the site.
Even if customers aren’t lucky enough to score some free chocolate, Malley makes customers who place a bumper sticker on their cars feel like part of a distinctively Cleveland tribe. He dubs them members of the “Chocolate Club.” As a result, people whose cars bear the Malley’s mark feel a part of something bigger than themselves. They have declared themselves publicly to be chocolate lovers—and can connect with fellow chocolate lovers whose cars also bear the distinctive mark.
By all appearances, Malley’s marketing strategy works well. Cruising the streets of Cleveland are a whole lot of cars sporting the distinctively-branded swag. People who take to the highway during the rush hour commute are likely to see more than one of the stickers on the back of someone’s car. How can Clevelanders who see the candy-colored ovals resist stopping by their local Malley’s for one of their trademark Pretzel Crunch Bars to munch on their long ride home.
For a small investment in custom bumper stickers and $500 a month in prize money, Malley has created a chocolate empire in this post-industrial Midwestern city. No holiday passes in Cleveland without lines of cars waiting to get into Malley’s stretching clear out onto the freeway, most of them sporting the trademark ovals that brand Malley’s business.
Customers who are lucky enough to get spotted and win the $25 gift certificate are treasured by the company. Malley’s posts a photo of each winner with his or her car on a gallery of the fortunate chocolate lovers. That business marketing strategy builds goodwill in the community as family and neighbors can see their friends’ photos on the site.
Again, when family and friends take a peek at the winners’ photos, they can sign up for a bumper sticker of their own to score $25 worth of the sweets. Most of them do. Who wouldn’t take a shot at winning cash and/or candy just for applying a little bumper sticker to their car?
Malley’s innovative marketing tactics have gained him elite status among his peers. When he served as vice-president of the Retail Confectioners; International Trade Association, the president of the organization, Terry Craft, dubbed Malley “the Chocolate Czar.”
With his uncanny ability to market a business with a blend of the real-world and the digital, it is no wonder that the Chocolate Czar keeps growing his well-marketed empire, one pretzel-studded chocolate bar at a time.