I went to the freezer the other day to find something to cook for dinner and saw a box of steaks I didn’t recognize. – Top Sirloin Steak with a Les Schwab sticker on the box. Huh? Tires and steak? I don’t get it. Why would a tire company give away free beef with a set of tires? I did some digging and here’s what the Les Schwab website says:
“The History of our Free Beef Promotion
It’s that time of year when your Les Schwab Tire Centers offer their own unique way to say thank you to their customers. How? During February it’s Free Beef time. In the early 1960s, Les Schwab was looking for a way to promote his business and to also help support some of his customers. In the early years, the local farmers and ranchers were the backbone of his business. He came up with Free Beef as a way of supporting an important industry and saying thank you to his customers.”
Still not convinced that thinking of tires while chewing my steak is a good idea, I decided to check in with the official tire consumer (and the real steak lover) of my family – my husband Bob.
Was I in for a surprise when I asked my husband questions about the meat! I fully expected him to say “I don’t know. I bought some tires and they gave me some meat. It’s free….what’s the big deal?” A native Northwesterner, my husband knew the full story of Les Schwab and could recite the origins of the annual beef giveaway. He’s a loyal Les Schwab customer, thinks the promotion is catchy and could recite past TV commercials with the founder in his cowboy hat. It seems this promotion has become like country lore in the Northwest area where Les Schwab originated and is highly celebrated for ongoing dedication to the Oregon cattle ranchers who helped him build his business.
My husband is the Les Schwab target customer, not me. Would he have bought tires somewhere else if Les Schwab wasn’t giving away meat? No. Les Schwab had the best deal. Will he only buy from Les Schwab the next time he buys tires? More than likely. Does he have any issues with eating meat he received from a tire store? Heck no – fire up the grill!
What do I like about the February campaign? The program recognizes the foundation of the Les Schwab business and the legacy of its founder while acknowledging the importance of its customers. The campaign recognizes the value of local business networks, how local businesses help one another to grow. It is a memorable promotion, one that cements the vision of the brand and the legacy of the company with the consumer. It is unexpected and unique – not the typical loyalty program with little business cards and point systems. I am not a big beef eater so I am not sure if I will be able to get over my initial reaction to seeing the Les Schwab sticker in my freezer. That being said, will I remember Les Schwab and his story now every time I pass their tire center? You bet!
What do you think? What can you apply to your small business from the Les Schwab story? What could you do to recognize customer loyalty that is unique to your brand and to your target markets?