First, let me start with a disclaimer: the following blog was in no way paid for or endorsed by the State Fair of Texas. Rather, this is all due to my fascination with the overall greatness that is the State Fair of Texas (mostly the food). With a delicious assortment of fried goodies, concerts, carnival games, pig races, and more, the fair draws attendees from near and far and has grown quickly. What started as a simple fair in 1886, attracting 100,000 visitors, has grown to an estimated 3 million visitors a year, generating $42 million in revenue. What’s behind this impressive growth? And how can you propel your brand to similar achievements? It’s all about building brand loyalty, or in the fair’s case – a devoted group of attendees who are excited to return, spread the word, and encourage others to join the fun. To get started, there are three key lessons you should reflect on to build your brand loyalty.
Promote Your Core Values
It’s important to know your organization’s core values—these differentiate your company, shape its culture, and drive overall behavior. The State Fair is no exception and has an established mission which “celebrates all things Texan by promoting agriculture, education, and community involvement through quality entertainment in a family-friendly environment”.
This mission is infused in everything the state fair does. Each year the fair includes exhibits dedicated to the Lone Star State‘s history and partners with a variety of local and regional groups to put on cultural performances that spread awareness, educate visitors, and encourage familiarity. In addition, it’s stayed true to its goal of being family friendly by staying accessible and providing good, clean fun for people of all ages. What’s more, the fair has introduced a youth scholarship program to award Texas students interested in pursuing higher education, which has been awarded to over 1,800 students since inception.
What are your organization’s goals? How can you use these to guide your priorities and targets? The more you can distill your goals and drive, the more insight you’ll be able to gain into how to move forward and build your following.
Make your brand more than just something people can recall – make it something they connect with. In the case of the fair, inspiration comes from all angles. One of the most obvious things the fair inspires is creativity. Each year there are a multitude of new fried food options and a competition to crown the best tasting and most creative entries. Winners have ranged from things such as this year’s Fried Jell-O® and State Fair cookie fries to fried Thanksgiving dinner, fried beer, deep fried butter, and one of my favorites – fried pb, jelly, and banana sandwich. And while this shows some definite ingenuity, it’s only the beginning. Lately these innovators have been able to parlay state fair success into something more permanent, such as the funnel cake beer which will now be available both at and outside of the fair and several other fair foods making their debut at a local Walmart restaurant.
The state fair is also noteworthy for bringing together the community. This year they have introduced the inaugural Pride of Texas award, honoring the Dallas Police Department for demonstrating the qualities Texans are known for: strength, friendliness, hard work, courage, and pride. Furthermore, the fair is made possible by local support and partnerships—it has a positive community impact and helps people contribute to something greater than themselves. Whether it’s donating 1.8 million free tickets to local students and teachers or donating canned goods collected to nearby charities, it’s clear the fair is bringing people together and creating lifelong memories.
How does your organization inspire or motivate others? The more you can inspire and help your customers, the greater the connection you can make to turn customers into true brand advocates.
Consistency is essential for building brand loyalty. Your customers rely on the quality of your services or products—this consistency can help manage how people perceive your organization, protect your investment, and build upon previous successes. And according to recent studies, acquiring a new customer can be anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one, making it more important than ever to be reliable. The state fair has this in the bag.
If you ask anyone, they may give you different answers about why they love the fair but a few will most likely come up time and again – food, football, concerts, and the overall atmosphere. It’s light-hearted fun, and it doesn’t try to be anything else. Although things may change throughout the years—you can buy tickets online now and they’ve added a new Taylor Swift experience exhibit—the fair has stayed true to itself and delivers year after year. After all, what would the fair be without the Red River Showdown or the butter sculpture? These are the things people look forward to that draws them back to share their experiences with friends, family, and the next generation, and along the way become the ultimate brand loyalists.
If you only take away only one thing from this, let it be that the more you can connect with your audience and create an emotional experience, the better off you’ll be. Distill and promote your brand’s values, use this to inspire your customers, and ultimately provide a quality, consistent experience to keep them coming back and building a loyal customer base for years to come. And also, if you haven’t gone to the fair – what are you waiting for? It ends October 23rd so you’d better act fast.