Case Study

Culver's Empowers Local Messaging with MessageGears + Sageflo

How do you enable high-ROI local messaging campaigns while maintaining control of your brand?

The Culver’s marketing team wanted to empower their local marketers to use their own customer data and help drive personalized email marketing, but it was impossible to do so with other tools. To bridge the gap and deliver superior marketing experiences, MessageGears teamed up with Sageflo — leaders in empowering marketing at the local level while maintaining brand control from corporate — and created the perfect solution to utilize all of their data while putting their local operators in a place to own a part of the message.


Key Outcomes

Quick migration

Migration to the platform only took 8 weeks

Micro-Segmented Messaging

Dramatic increase in the number of individual campaigns sent through the brand

Higher overall audience engagement

Because the messaging was more relevant, audience engagement increased

Adoption at scale

100% of operators that have logged in have sent a campaign within the first 3 months

The Opportunity: Empowering local operators to create hyper-segmented messaging while maintaining brand control

Any marketer who’s worked with a large corporate umbrella over many locally managed subsidiaries (restaurant chains, professional sports leagues, and direct sales organizations are a few examples) can likely relate to the problem of wanting to combine the hyper-relevance of locally based messaging with the consistency and data management of a sophisticated corporate marketing operation.

For many large, national brands, broad corporate-led campaigns with selected elements of personalization work well because the customer experience doesn’t differ significantly from location to location. But for brands with close customer touchpoints at the local level — and who often have franchisees wanting to engage in a direct way with the community they know best — it’s important to be able to provide a level of local autonomy while maintaining brand standards and selective data access in order to generate the campaign relevance you want.

This was the position Culver’s was in when they found MessageGears, whose direct data connection looked like the perfect fit for how they wanted to expand their local marketing programs.

“Once conversations with Culver’s began, we knew it would be a great fit since they could use their live data with our open API architecture,” Taylor Jones, SVP Customer Success at MessageGears said. “That was the key to being able to give their franchisees the tools they needed to send campaigns to their customers, using the unique local knowledge that only they had.”

That included all sorts of information that was highly relevant to people in their area but practically invisible to the marketers building campaigns from corporate. If there’s a big basketball game at the local high school down the road, inviting customers to a pep rally before the game — or victory celebration afterward — is a highly effective way to increase engagement. Combined with a steady, consistent cadence of announcements and offers from the larger brand, and Culver’s knew they had the recipe for a successful email strategy.

What they wanted was essentially the best of both worlds:

  • Allow local restaurant owner-operators to have the freedom to send relevant emails on the local level so the messages were more personal for customers

But also:

  • Own the messaging and brand framework from a corporate standpoint to have approval over every message going out

If they could get to that point, it would allow them to empower local store owners to build their own email campaigns using their unique knowledge of the area and their customers, enabling them to perform highly relevant targeting of small groups at each restaurant. During this process, it was also important for their corporate team to be able to keep local messaging and design on brand while still allowing the local marketing leaders some level of autonomy.

“Sending any sort of locally based campaigns had always been a huge challenge for us, but it was something we’d discussed as a goal many times,” said Liz Haferkorn, Senior Marketing Manager for Culver’s. “Our franchisees always told us they wanted that flexibility, but we never could find the right solution to give us the comfort level we needed to execute it.”

Importantly, though, Culver’s still wanted their corporate marketers to control the overall message being sent nationally, so the overall message customers received wasn’t disjointed from a brand and language standpoint. For corporate marketers who have many senders distributed in many places, scaling marketing can be extremely time consuming without the right tools.

Finding no solutions that allow marketers to resonate with local consumers, the Culver’s team turned to MessageGears and Sageflo to deliver one.

The Solution: MessageGears + Sageflo combine to deliver a best-of-breed solution

Sageflo Radiate™ seamlessly and directly integrates with MessageGears Accelerator™ creating Sageflo Radiate™ powered by MessageGears™, giving users the ability to create and send a message within minutes — even if the user has little to no experience in the marketing world. And once implementation began it seemed like Sageflo and MessageGears were made for each other. But don’t take our word for it; here’s what Aaron Smith, CEO of Sageflo, had to say about the partnership:

“While Sageflo Radiate™ empowered Culver’s local store owner/operators to create and send hyper-personalized messages, it was really the power of MessageGears’ Accelerator™ direct data access and open API design that made our implementation so fast and gave such power to these local marketers.”

“As we were working together, we knew how important it was to not only have a good story to tell around corporate marketing and our distributed-marketing tool, but to make it easy for anyone to use,” says Nick Ziech-Lopez, Director of Product Marketing at MessageGears. “In many cases, these are not people with lots of marketing training who have their fingers on the keys. So making it user-friendly from the UI to the data access was a huge win for the team.”

The integration allows corporate marketing teams to create multiple templates, while the local level chooses an approved template and can send messages in minutes. This feature makes the message feel personalized while conforming with overall company brand guidelines. MessageGears’ on-premises installation and lack of defined data schema plugged directly into the Culver’s data, making setup easy and quick.

One of the most used features of the tool is the flexible audience creator, allowing local users to easily select from various options to define their intended set of recipients, making segmenting easy. Better yet, though, this feature only took weeks to migrate and apply in the brand’s environment because Sageflo can create a single audience during the migration that can be flexibly changed in MessageGears’ back-end APIs to apply to any store. This allows corporate marketers to create globally defined segments like “Frequent diner” while local marketers can use that to target recipients close to them.

“Flexibility is one of the biggest keys to making Radiate such a useful tool for both corporate and local marketers,” Bernice Fung, Head of Growth at Sageflo said. “It is what provides the corporate team with the control they need while still giving individual stores that opportunity to tailor audiences to their particular market needs.”

The Benefit: Better alignment between brand and local creators, raising engagement and delivering ROI

The quick eight-week migration saved the Culver’s significant time and resources, in addition to allowing them to begin the training and onboarding process at the local level far sooner than they had anticipated as they were looking to set up this program.

Once the rollout had completed, A/B testing at the local level allowed the Culver’s to quickly learn what types of campaigns worked for the various restaurants and which ones didn’t, gradually honing in on the best combination of content and messaging to increase relevance to the customers receiving the messages and, as a result, new customers, engagement, and ROI for the brand.

“Seeing this strategy in action was actually better than we even expected it to be,” Aaron Smith said. “The results came quickly and really validated the partnership we had with MessageGears in the first place. Everyone got on board and made it a big success.”

Better alignment between the corporate and local teams also enabled more collaboration, and gave everyone from the top down comfort and confidence in their strategic approach. Marketers at the corporate level had more visibility into what was effective on a micro level, and they were able to help use those learnings to gently steer campaigns in the right direction while franchisees enjoyed the flexibility to be able to send messages that made their customers feel like the valued and understood regulars they were.