I’m a little bit ashamed to not have written about Village Quik Lube in this blog until now. After all, I’ve been writing here for nearly two years, and I pass this little dose of Marketing with Meaning every day when I come and go from work. I guess it was this small business’s new Facebook effort that gave me the final push to feature it here—as another example of how social media best works as a way to bring an entire marketing strategy to life.
Village Quik Lube is a small oil-change business located in Newtown, Ohio, a small suburban Cincinnati village just about 2 miles from my home. The shop is known by everyone around as “the place with the funny sayings”—as the owner of the business updates the sign above a couple of times a week with a new joke. Some are funnier/cornier than others, but every time the sign changes we are compelled to look and laugh. Aside from this sign, the shop has several other remarkable features: There’s a fish pond outside, chairs made up of old-car seats and barber chairs inside, and the parking lot is often the host of grill parties and fund-raisers.
What I love about the Village Quik Lube is that it brings some personality to a business that most people grudgingly tolerate every three months or 3,000 miles. Most of us are used to going into the cookie-cutter Jiffy Lube and car-dealership services, which feel more like a trip to the dentist. Just like these competitors, Village Quik Lube has a convenient location and all of the periodic maintenance services we expect at a fair price. But this business spends the time between our visits making us smile on an otherwise boring commute. We appreciate the owner’s attempt to lighten our day, which leaves us almost looking forward to making the stop in for an oil change and tire rotation. All it takes is some time to think up the signs and change them a few times a week.
So it’s no wonder that Village Quik Lube has gone into social media with a fan page on Facebook. Interestingly, Facebook offers a direct transfer of the company’s “offline” marketing strategy for the online world. Facebook has become the virtual vehicle of our daily commute, so of course people who enjoy driving by and stopping at the shop would want to continue the relationship online.
But Facebook offers benefits that the signs and store itself cannot do alone. For example, the owner recently asked his 200-plus members if they would like to see some of the ideas for signs that were a little too racy for the road. I learned that he actually gets complaints on certain topics and has toned down the humor over the years. Of course the members said “yes”—and we were treated to jewels like:
“Did… you hear about the new vitamin just for men sold only at golf pro shops? It’s called Tiger Wood.”
Of course this one is a little too daring for the G-rated public thoroughfare, but I laughed out loud at this and some of the others I found on Facebook.
Reading further, I got to see photos from this intersection in 1970 “when there were cows grazing in the field nearby.” I saw that the shop staff is thinking about raffling off the chance to drive a demolition-derby car. And I learned how the owner was told by a Quaker State executive that his store would be out of business within six months; that was 12 years ago.
If you really think about it, Village Quik Lube is not new to social media because of its Facebook presence. Rather, this is a business that has always been about social media. Its goal is to make people smile and give back to the community. In return, it earns loyalty and positive word of mouth. Digital social media is just an evolution of what it has been doing successfully for 12 years.
When I read about the brands that are doing the most in social media, it seems to mainly be small businesses such as Zappos and the Kogi Korean BBQ truck. They have succeeded by starting out in social media and created businesses around this core approach, rather than just bolting on a Twitter feed or having an agency monitor buzz.
I believe there has never been a better time to start a business than the present. Large companies’ advantages in mass scale are falling away as people become more interested in niche products and meaningful brands—and marketing is as simple as telling your story on a blog, tweet, or Facebook page. The future of business might look like millions of passionate owners connecting with a handful of customers by adding value through products, services, and marketing.