The NBC affiliate in the caffeine-crazy town is making money and promoting its early news by delivering free cups of coffee to firefighters, emergency room workers and other deserving locals.
Ahhhhh. In the Pacific Northwest, there’s nothing like a damn fine cup of morning coffee. But while Seattle grabs the glory for upscale java joints, it took the marketers at Cowles Publishing’s KHQ Spokane, Wash., to turn coffee into a smart promotion.
“Let’s face it,” says Bill Storms, general sales manager of the NBC affiliate known as Q6. “Coffee is huge around here. So it was a natural hook for promoting our morning news.”
Promotion Manager Mike Jackson did just that, attracting viewers to the early morning news with the tag line “The coffee’s on us.” Everyone loved the line, but agreed it needed a payoff—a way to make the tag line literal, not to mention entertaining and profitable.
The sales department quickly found the perfect partner: Cravens Coffee, a locally-owned roaster and distributor. In Spokane, Cravens is a beloved brand name, and it fairly dominates the shelf space in area grocery stores and specialty shops. Cravens’ familiar brown foil bags frequently boast the logos of such local sports teams as the Gonzaga University Bulldogs.
But thanks to Mike Jackson, Cravens now showcases the smiling mugs of a different bunch of winners: the Q6 Morning News team. And in a weekly taped segment on the morning news, anchor Shelly Monahan delivers a round of Cravens to a deserving local group selected by the viewers.
Monahan has some high-priced help in the form of company founder Simon Craven, who is already a Spokane celebrity thanks to his own portrait on the coffee bags. “Simon and his wife have a long history of community service,” says Storms. “So they were all for the community-recognition angle.”
Recent recipients include firefighters, emergency room workers, and, perhaps most poignant, a group of Washington State airmen on the morning they departed Fairchild Air Force Base for a tour of duty in Iraq.
Jackson’s promotion team has crafted the most memorable of these scenes into heartwarming proof-of-performance spots, which are sponsored by Cravens. (Click here to see two of the spots.) Now in its second year, Coffee’s On Us has added an annual $25,000 to KHQ’s bottom line. “For the 77th market, that’s not bad,” says Storms.
While it’s been tempting to expand the concept—and revenue—by including sponsored pastry with the coffee, KHQ believes it’s best to keep a winning promotion simple and memorable. Besides, Cravens Coffee is pleased to have the limelight to itself and KHQ is just as happy with the incalculable gross impressions every time a Spokane viewer strolls down the coffee aisle.
As you would expect from a highly-caffeinated sales team, KHQ has a wide range of promotions, which support such ongoing and local efforts as the child-friendly Success By Six, Eastern Washington Diabetes Prevention Network and the Christmastime Toys For Tots Drive. “Basically anything hyper-local works for us,” Storms says. “It’s how we make our station unique compared to cable or satellite.”
Market Share by Arthur Greenwald is a series on successful station promotions which appears every Monday. Next week, a holiday-themed reminiscence of a few of the most beloved annual station projects designed to benefit local charities. We’re on the lookout for other good ideas for increasing local audience and revenue. If you have one (or more) to share, please contact Arthur Greenwald at [email protected].