How Utz Drives Customer Loyalty and Retention With an SMS-Exclusive Club

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SMS Marketing
Published on
Jul 29, 2021
Written by
Kayla Ellman
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Founded in 1921 in Hanover, PA—the snack capital of the world—Utz has been delighting consumers with a variety of delicious snack foods ever since. 

To celebrate their 100th anniversary this year, the Utz brand introduced the Utz Centennial Club, an SMS-exclusive club for their snack loyalists. 

We sat down with Sean Adams, VP of Marketing Communications & E-Commerce at Utz, to talk about the marketing strategy behind the launch, using timely campaigns to continuously engage subscribers, and the power of audience segmentation. 

What was the marketing strategy behind the Centennial Club launch, and why did you choose SMS as the point of entry for fans to join?

The idea for the Centennial Club actually came from our CEO, Dylan Lissette, who was looking for ways to celebrate our 100th anniversary with our customers. At the same time, we wanted to grow our SMS subscriber list because text messaging has been a very exciting and growing channel for us. 

Our CEO brought the idea to us in mid-February, and he challenged us to put the program together by National Potato Chip Day on March 14. We decided to brand our text channel as the Utz Centennial Club and use it to engage our most loyal consumers with exclusive discounts, year supply giveaways, and more. 

We used our email list and social media channels to drive awareness. We also issued a press release ahead of National Potato Chip Day, officially announcing the Centennial Club, and incentivized sign-ups with free shipping on online orders for a limited time. 

We made it easy for our fans to sign up for the Centennial Club by just texting UTZ to our unique number. With all of our combined efforts during the National Potato Chip Week launch campaign, we were able to increase our SMS list by 22%.

-  Sean Adams, VP of Marketing Communications & E-Commerce at Utz

We sent a multimedia message to all new subscribers welcoming them to the club with the discount code for free shipping.

How did you get your existing SMS subscribers involved in the National Potato Chip Week campaign?

We wanted to take care of this initial group of subscribers because they were our loyal fan base—the most devoted Utz fans. We sent a separate text to our existing subscribers first, welcoming them to the Centennial Club as part of our National Potato Chip Week celebration. We used the same creative that we sent to new subscribers later who signed up through the Chip Week campaign, and we highlighted the benefits of the club. Members received exclusive discounts and giveaways, limited-edition merchandise, and first access to try new Utz Brands snacks before anyone else. 

We designed this campaign to build excitement around the Centennial Club—and now, our text channel is the Centennial Club, so anyone who signs up to receive text messages from Utz gets access to these members-only offers. 

How did you use two-way messaging to collect entries for The Ultimate Slam Dunk Sweepstakes?

We view exclusive giveaways for our club members as a way to build loyalty and connect with our biggest fans. But we always want to give people outside of our SMS audience opportunities to sign up for texts from Utz so they can get in on the fun. 

We planned The Ultimate Slam Dunk Sweepstakes during basketball season in March, and we wanted to test using conversational messaging to collect entries. 

For our current subscribers—who are also our Centennial Club members—we announced the sweepstakes via text. We included a call to action encouraging people to respond to our message with the keyword SLAMDUNK to enter for their chance to win. 

utz keyword message

We also had an SMS capture pop-up on desktop and mobile to engage anyone organically browsing our website in the campaign. We used language that said, "Enter to win when you sign up for texts," and included a disclaimer so we could compliantly add all new subscribers to the  Centennial Club. 

After the entry period ended, we used two-way messaging again to announce the winners and get the information we needed to send them their prizes. It was a successful test to engage our loyal subscribers, while also attracting new ones.

How do you engage your subscribers around niche, snack-related holidays like National Cheese Ball Day?

We made National Cheese Ball Day a part of our 100th-anniversary celebration this year. We developed a birthday cake version of our iconic cheese balls, and we only made them available for a limited amount of time. 

UTZ limited time offer

We texted our Centennial Club members a few days before National Cheese Ball Day, giving them exclusive first access to buy our birthday puffs before they were available in stores. We also gave our subscribers 40% off the suggested retail price—a strategy that worked very well. We sold out our entire direct-to-consumer projection and allotment in 48 hours.

This showed us the power of our SMS program and the Centennial Club. We learned that we definitely need to increase our projections, which is a good thing. 

Of course, we also had to drive home that Utz is the iconic cheese ball for celebrating National Cheese Ball Day. We ran a separate promotion the day before the official holiday, offering our subscribers 20% off our cheese ball snacks and merchandise on our website.

How do you think about your audience segmentation strategy and messaging certain groups based on their snack preferences?

We use our customer data to create dynamic segments based on our subscribers' browsing and shopping habits. We have a Cheese Ball segment, for example, that includes any subscribers who have purchased or viewed any of our cheese ball products at least once. We used similar parameters to create a segment for fans of our Utz Kettle Classics Dark Russets, another popular product for us. 

utz popular product

We tested out sending Centennial Club exclusive discounts to each of these audiences and saw strong results. The text to our Cheese Ball segment had a 16% click-through rate and a 12% conversion rate, while the text to our Dark Russets segment had a 28% click-through and an almost 38% conversion rate. 

I love this segmentation strategy—it's the beauty of digital marketing in 2021. From a consumer standpoint, we're indirectly saying, 'Hey, we know you like these particular potato chips. Here's an exclusive offer just for you.' And it's that combination of efficiency and personalization that drives these amazing conversion rates for us, and why we'll continue to mature our segmentation strategy as our list grows.

-  Sean Adams, VP of Marketing Communications & E-Commerce at Utz 

As we hit the summer, loyal fans of our Crab Chips and people interested in our merchandise are candidates for future audience segments and targeted deals. 

Now that the initial launch is over, how are you consistently getting people to sign up for texts from Utz and join the Centennial Club?

From the beginning, we wanted to put our Centennial Club on a pedestal to drive so much value for those subscribers that they want to tell their friends about it. We're also driving record-breaking traffic to our website through paid media, so we've updated the SMS and email sign-up unit on our website—both desktop and mobile—with the call to action to join the Centennial Club.

We're continuing to celebrate our 100th birthday with ongoing promotions, like our Blow Out the Candles sweepstakes for a chance to win a year's supply of Utz. 

In addition to sharing the promotion across our social channels, we're also using Attentive's Subscribers API on our website to make it easy for people to opt in to receiving text messages from Utz. We want everyone to feel like a winner, even if they don't win the grand prize, so all new subscribers get a 10-15% discount code just for entering the sweepstakes.

Do you have any advice for implementing SMS as a new performance marketing channel?

There are four pieces of advice I would share. First, it's important to empower someone to own your SMS program. We're lucky to have an amazing team at Utz that's passionate about the business, and we're encouraged to be creative. 

Second, share results internally—early and often. Helping your executive team understand the power of text messaging will allow you to gain additional resources. Our CEO came to us with the idea of launching the Centennial Club to grow our text channel, and that only happened because we consistently share data that shows the success of our SMS channel. 

Third, being able to communicate with consumers directly is not something we take lightly. We're very intentional about the messages we send, and we always think about bringing value to our fans that have trusted us with their phone numbers. 

Finally, you have to let people know that they can sign up for texts from your brand. Experiment with messaging SMS in as many ways as possible, through social media, on your merchandise—get creative.

Interested in how food and beverage brands are using text messaging to increase engagement and loyalty? Explore Texts We Love to discover impactful SMS marketing examples.

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