unbranded consumer touchpoints
earned and paid media impressions
AmeriGas is America’s largest propane supplier, with 700 regional offices spread across the country. In early 2016, the company came to Brownstein Group with a mission – find a way to engage with customers that would reinforce the company’s commitment to each community it serves. We needed to communicate that even with its size and vast supply chain, AmeriGas has always been a company of communities, from small towns to big cities. Brownstein Group was tasked with creating a national campaign that would resonate at a local level. To do so required a unique strategy, rooted in research.
AmeriGas identified six locations: small towns in New England, the Midwest, and Pacific Northwest. While distinct in their demographics, each of these offices faced threats from smaller, local competitors offering unsustainable discounts. BG knew that to fully understand each situation, we’d have to fly to each town, speak to the residents, and research the local media market to ascertain the psychology behind what was driving consumer behavior. Through firsthand interviews and research, we surmised that a traditional PR/Advertising campaign would only make AmeriGas look corporate and out-of-touch with local concerns. Instead of being combative with competitors, we were supportive of the town, embracing the community by rallying around a common enemy – opioid/heroin abuse.
We went to six different locations in six different small towns more than 3,000 miles apart, and yet in each place we encountered the same issue of opioid/heroin abuse, a pervasive threat to all families regardless of socioeconomic status. Between 2010 and 2015, the national percentage of fatal overdoses involving heroin tripled, with some towns we visited experiencing an average of four overdoses per day. Other local companies had yet to address the crisis, and we knew there was an opportunity to rally the community and show residents we believe that it’s not good enough to just be from a town, you have to stand up for it. We called the unbranded program, “From Here. For Here.”
“From Here. For Here.” was a grassroots effort to win hearts and minds, and remind local communities that that it’s not good enough to just be local. If AmeriGas cannot win on price, it needs to win on impact. To earn the hearts and minds (and eventual loyalty) of each community, our program was designed to support them and do so in a way that did not appear self-serving. By seeding the “From Here. For Here.” message, we proved that AmeriGas is not just in the community for its own profit, but also the community’s benefit.
To begin, we wanted to boost town pride, so we created “From Here. For Here.” car magnets and distributed more than 1,500 around each town to start a local conversation about what it meant to be from that area. We then developed full-page sponsored content for each market’s local print newspaper. The content came in the form of a letter from a local employee that addressed the issue of opioid abuse in that community, reminding residents that AmeriGas was part of this community and that together we could fight addiction. In the letter, which was also included in customers’ propane bills, we announced a donation to a local nonprofit or fire/police department to educate/prevent/treat opioid and heroin abuse. Finally, we created local events (fundraisers, BBQs, etc.) that brought people together, fostered conversation, and increased engagement.
While our goal is the long-term proliferation of the communities AmeriGas serves and an increased quality of life for AmeriGas customers, our campaigns saw tremendous short-term reaction as well, like unsolicited monetary donations and the support of entire local police departments. As a result of this campaign, we’ve formed ongoing relationships with nonprofits and increased awareness of an important issue, but the true measure of our success is the adoption of this strategy into a national campaign. What began as a targeted campaign in a few locations is currently being rolled out by AmeriGas across the country; truly a national company of local communities.
Awards and Recognition:
Finalist: 2018 PR Daily Awards in category of Finance & Utilities Campaign