Big Whiskey’s vice president of marketing and franchising/GMS Group Inc. owner
2017 Marketing Outlook: Dan Allen
Responsible for Big Whiskey’s regional franchising efforts, Dan Allen is tracking marketing trends in Springfield and beyond.
2017 Projection: “More digital. It hasn’t even come close to peaking yet. We may see some new technologies developed in 2017 that will start not necessarily taking the place of social media and some of the other digital platforms but enhancing them.”
SBJ: What digital marketing trends are on the horizon? Dan Allen: Probably something to do with social media, and I think maybe more interactive digital. More automobile companies are having interactive digital platforms inside their cars, and more of that is going to start moving toward homes and even offices. We’ve barely scratched the surface on that digital interactive format when it comes to people being able to market goods and services, which is going to keep marketing people on their toes. I think they’re getting the hang of the platforms that are there now to some extent, but they’re constantly being refined. Good marketing people have to adapt to that on a constant basis or you get left behind. I’m not saying that you still can’t use mass media and other forms of marketing. I just think that really good, smart marketers, whether it’s business to business or business to consumer, have got to be very up to date in the digital age.
SBJ: What’s expected in the franchising industry in 2017? Allen: It appears the consumer is moving away from typical big-chain franchises. Bigger chains are suffering more than smaller local places. That’s across the country. As it is with any business, the cream rises to the top. The good ones will survive, the bad ones won’t. Springfield used to be a training ground for franchisors. Probably, there will be a few that will move in.
SBJ: Do you see more locally based retail and restaurant companies expanding? Allen: I do. If you think about the companies that are based here that are starting to expand, you’ve got us, you’ve got Andy’s, you’ve got Classic Rock Coffee, you’ve got Great American Taco. It’s kind of amazing that in this relatively small town there’s a number of companies that are growing externally. Springfield has a quiet story to tell. People will start looking more at Springfield.
SBJ: How will Springfield’s restaurant industry fare in 2017? Allen: People are going to spend less time at the big-box restaurant franchises and more at locally owned restaurants because we can be a little bit more nimble and flexible when it comes to menu offerings and pricing. The ones that can listen to customers, give the best service and consistency of food are the ones that are going to win out. As far as new ones coming in, it seems like there’s almost a new restaurant opening daily. Springfield has per capita one of the highest restaurant concentrations in America. It’s a difficult business.
SBJ: Is Springfield doing a good job marketing itself? Allen: You need to ask the [Springfield] Convention & Visitors Bureau and the chamber if they’re satisfied with that. I personally probably think not. I think it’s also a matter of real identity.
This is the second time I’ve lived here. I moved back here last March to take over the franchising and marketing for the guys at Big Whiskey’s. I’ve never really had a sense that Springfield really knew who it was. It used to be, you hung your hat on Bass Pro [Shops], but now that there’s Bass Pros all over the country, it’s lost some of that charm. Route 66 is probably the heart of what goes on here. Until Springfield gets a real, true convention center/hotel combination that can really properly handle conventions, I don’t know that we’ll ever pull in the number of people that I think they would like to.
SBJ: What’s your take on big data used to market items more directly to consumers? What will that look like in 2017? Allen: Data collection and data filtering and using that data to better market goods and services is going to continue to become more important. I know from a restaurant standpoint, it’s a fine line. The more you know about your customers, the better you can serve them. At the end of the day, they get better goods and services, and because they’re happier, then the retail side is happier because we’ve served them better, so they’re spending more money. Is it too intrusive? I don’t know where that line is and I don’t know that anybody knows where that line is. It’s here. It’s not going to go away. Consumers need to get accustomed to it. I think the people who are gathering and using it better be good stewards of it, because if they don’t, there could be a revolt. There’s a certain group out there that’s going to be really concerned about Big Brother and privacy issues, and well they should. We as a restaurant chain are looking at other ways that we can gather more data about our customers without being intrusive.