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CSNews Exclusive: Quick Chek Takes Literal Approach to Branding

WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. -- Quick Chek is taking on branding in the most literal sense.

Dubbing it "skinvertising," the New Jersey-based operator of more than 120 convenience stores in the Garden State and southern New York is using skin stamping as an inexpensive promotional technique to generate trial of its foodservice offering and create brand buzz.

"We don't have a big advertising budget, so we have to come up with unique ways to drive innovation," said John Schaninger, vice president of sales and merchandising.

As CSNews Online reported yesterday, Quick Chek on Dec. 16 will celebrate the beginning of the cold weather season by offering its morning coffee patrons a complimentary cup of soup when they return during daytime operating hours.

Customers purchasing any size coffee between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m. that day will receive a special "Warm Up Wednesday" stamp on their hand at checkout. When they return between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m., and present their hand stamp, customers will receive a complimentary soup. They can choose from one of Quick Chek's many varieties, including Chicken Noodle Galore, Pot Roast Vegetable, Italian Wedding, Sweet Potato Bisque, Roasted Tomato and Garlic, and Spicy Chili, among others.

In the past, Quick Chek kicked off soup season in October with billboards and radio spots, but this year, decided instead to focus its billboards and radio spots on value. "But we still want customers to know we offer all these great soups," Schaninger explained.

"Warm Up Wednesday" will mark the retailer's third skinvertising promotion.

The first was done last summer around the launch of its new Texas Smokehouse Steak Sub. On July 7 of last year, Quick Chek customers were branded with a "Claim Your Steak" hand stamp at checkout from 5 a.m. to 11 a.m. They could then return that same day and present their stamp to receive a free Texas Smokehouse Steak Sub.

"We considered giving out a coupon, but the great part about skinvertising is if I get my hand stamped, I then go to the office and I'm carrying this [stamp] around all day. It generates a lot of discussion about Quick Chek," Schaninger told CSNews Online.

The retailer's first-ever skin stamping promotion went so well that this May, the chain did another, but this time tied it in with the all-important morning coffee purchase. Customers purchasing any size coffee between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m. May 7, received a "Sub Stimulus Plan" hand stamp at checkout, and when they returned from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., they were able to get one of Quick Chek's five most popular subs for free.

More than 10,300 people enjoyed a six-inch sub on the house, and Schaninger said an added bonus was that the stores experienced an immediate lift in hot breakfast sales. "I think people came in for their coffee, came back and realized what a great sub we have, and then the next day, they came in and tried our breakfast," he said.

For Quick Chek, skinvertising has proven to be an inexpensive way to gain foodservice trial, build up its brand and reward loyal customers. Plus, since individuals can go to any Quick Chek to redeem their stamps, it's ideal for the many commuters who shop the chain.

"We plan to keep doing this," Schaninger said. "The more we do trial and free [offers], the more we realize the impact it has ... and as long as our customers love it, we'll keep doing it."

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