Chicago's Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits Sweet Social Media Success

Molly Soat
Marketing News
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Key Takeaways
  • In 2013, Bang Bang partnered with Popular Pays to help increase Bang Bang’s reach and brand awareness by offering free slices of pie for brand-friendly Instagram posts.

  • While coupons give customers something for nothing, Popular Pays gives merchants expanded reach and brand awareness in exchange for goods.

  • In its two years as a bricks-and-mortar shop, Bang Bang has experienced more than 30% growth year over year, according to Miller.

Chicago’s Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits grows by trading social media mentions for handcrafted treats

Since its founding in March 2012, Chicago-based Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits has built its business around a tasty—and aesthetically pleasing—product and recently, co-founder Dave Miller found a way to turn the shop’s photogenic products into free advertising.

In the summer of 2013, Miller partnered with a small social media marketing company to help increase Bang Bang’s reach and brand awareness by offering free slices of pie for brand-friendly Instagram posts. The sheer potential that the pie-for-posts effort could have in attracting more loyal customers sweetens the company’s chances for success, Miller says.

Starting With a Bang

Bang Bang has employed social media in its brand-building efforts since the early days, when the company began as a food truck. Miller and his co-founder—his wife, Megan, the baker of the pies and treats—used Facebook and Twitter to spread the word about where the Bang Bang truck would be headed next, and to publicize the changing menu. They employed Instagram to share photos of their product in an attempt to tantalize sweet-toothed millennials on the visual medium. The shop also was featured on Instagram’s blog early on, ballooning its Instagram follower base. “Our marketing is very guerrilla,” Miller says. “We do what we can with what we have.”

When they opened a bricks-and-mortar location in Chicago’s up-and-coming Logan Square neighborhood, they leveraged their established social media following to announce their new shop and they had an instant customer base, he says. “People knew our name before we ever opened.”

Social media has since played a central role in the company’s marketing efforts, helping it garner media mentions in publications including Bon Appétit, Chicago magazine and The New York Times, Miller says. And given Bang Bang’s photogenic product, Instagram is a natural fit for the company’s social media efforts, Miller says, so when the founders of Popular Pays, a Chicago-based social media marketing firm, came calling, Miller was all ears.

 

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Popular Pays offers a service for brands through which Instagram users with more than 500 followers receive small discounts in return for posting about the client brands. Corbett Drummey, Allen Holmes and Nathan Michaels, the co-founders of Popular Pays, were fans of Bang Bang’s product before they launched their marketing service in August 2013, so they reached out to Miller to create one of their first Instagram-based brand-building efforts.

Miller now offers Popular Pays members a biscuit with jam when they share a picture of the product with 500 followers or more on Instagram, and a slice of pie when their audience is more than 1,000. The service currently is free to Miller and other small merchants, as Popular Pays is banking on the participation of such small businesses to lend the service credibility while it courts larger brands, Drummey says.

According to Miller, the service is more valuable to Bang Bang than coupons, which give customers something for nothing, because Popular Pays gives merchants expanded reach and brand awareness in exchange for goods. “As a business, we see social media as important,” Miller says. “It got us to where we were, and it’s getting us to where we’re going.”

“Bang Bang was immediately successful because they have a really aesthetically pleasing product and great branding,” Drummey says. “They’re the perfect client for something like this. They’ve been a success story,” and now, with Popular Pays, Bang Bang is leveraging its existing Instagram base and “using their product to advertise,” he says.

Miller wants to keep a lean number of loyal followers engaged, making his fans feel like they’re insiders with access to special announcements and photos. “For Instagram, and all social media, I don’t care how many followers I have as long as they’re active followers. We do whatever it takes to keep our users engaged and that’s where Popular Pays comes in. It’s not so much that it gives us new followers or that it creates new business, as much as it’s a social engagement tool where the people who have a lot of followers are giving me marketing [help].”

The Sweet Smell of Social Success

In its two years as a bricks-and-mortar shop, Bang Bang has experienced more than 30% growth year over year, according to Miller. The owners have acquired an off-site bakery to produce pies for delivery and cross-country shipment, and they’re considering opening a second shop.

While Miller estimates that the bottom-line impact of Popular Pays accounts for less than 1% of overall sales, he considers the service’s value to be in the sheer potential to acquire new regulars. “Even if it gave us 10 customers for the year, it’s worth it. One of those new customers could be the person who shows up every single day. Loyalty is even more valuable than monetization,” he says. “If you keep people engaged, they’ll feel like they belong. Social media allows you to do that. [Users are] willing to share views of our product in exchange for our product. That’s a valuable customer and an important market.”


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Author Bio:

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Molly Soat
Molly Soat is a staff writer for Marketing News and Marketing News Exclusives. E-mail her at msoat@ama.org.
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