Marketing During a Pandemic

March 2020 needs no explanation. Seemingly overnight, everything changed. Just a few weeks before nationwide quarantines and stay at home orders went into effect across the country, our team was in Boston meeting with Lucky Strike, the bowling alley venue that started a nationwide trend of high-end entertainment concepts for adults. 

Founded in Hollywood by Steven Foster and Kevin Troy in 2003, Lucky Strike has grown to 17 locations in 12 states. The brand has evolved from one bowling alley in Hollywood known for its celebrity clientele and live music scene, to a multi-million dollar franchise with a reputation for its hip atmosphere and eclectic aesthetic. 

But just as we were brought on board to help Lucky Strike freshen up its brand and reimagine their marketing strategy, they were forced to temporarily close their doors like so many other businesses. What started as a robust branding and marketing effort turned into a crisis management exercise—a full communications and marketing strategy to announce the temporary closings and help sustain the brand’s place in the market while their leadership determined the next steps. Like so many other businesses, the future was uncertain. 

But here at The Old State, we never back down from a challenge. In fact, we thrive on it. We rolled up our sleeves and worked with Lucky Strike’s seasoned marketing team to strategize, plan, and pivot to effectively market Lucky Strike’s business during a global pandemic. Here’s how we successfully created a reopening strategy for Lucky Strike.

  1. Re-opening Playbook. For all of our marketing clients, we create a robust Marketing Playbook that outlines their brand’s entire marketing strategy from soup to nuts. But for Lucky Strike, we had to put their larger marketing strategy on hold and create a mini version of the playbook solely focused on reopening. This playbook included social media, email marketing, venue signage, and a paid ad campaign strategy that was centered around our new world with COVID-19. This strategy is meant to be a template for each venue that opens next, tailored to their individual markets. 

  1. Employee Playbook. An effective marketing strategy is only as good as the experience customers have when they walk in the door. To help marketing efforts work hand in hand with the guest experience inside Lucky Strike’s first facility to reopen, we compiled all of Lucky Strike’s COVID-19 operating procedure documents and compiled them into a guide for employees. By working so closely with the venue’s operations, it allowed our team to have transparency into the full guest experience which informed every piece of marketing communication. There was no disconnect between marketing and operations. 

  1. Surveys. Immediately following stay-at-home orders and business closings, the next question on everyone’s mind has always been, “when can we reopen?” When Lucky Strike decided to reopen its Denver location as a test venue to try out their new COVID-19 safety protocols, we helped them plan how to market it. We worked with the marketing team to create a survey for the Denver market to gather feedback and test the waters on their level of comfort with returning to a public business. The results of this survey helped inform Lucky Strike’s reopening strategy and were invaluable to us in tailoring our messages to the Denver market. 

  1. Safety Video. Rethinking a business’s guest experience with COVID-19 safety in mind can be daunting. Every aspect of the experience has to be carefully examined and reformatted to help prevent the spread of the virus and create an environment where guests feel safe. Lucky Strike’s motto throughout the reopening process has always been “We’ll worry about safety. You just worry about having fun.” To help guests understand what the new safety experience looks like, we created a video that showed each step of the process from when guests arrive, to how their bowling balls are sanitized, to how they can order food and drinks. This video is the centerpiece of the marketing strategy. 

  1. Social Media. We all know that one of the fastest ways to communicate with your target audience is to show up in their social media newsfeeds. Once Lucky Strike closed their doors, we created social media content to communicate the closings and then developed a content calendar to carry them through the quarantines and lockdowns. Staying top of mind and engaging with your followers is always a priority, but especially when you can’t engage with them in person. Going dark is not an option. From tutorials on how to make Lucky Strike’s craft cocktails from home to live-streaming DJ performances, we kept their social media presence active and engaging. 

  1. Email Marketing. A huge part of any marketing strategy is carefully planning the email communications customers receive. As we all know, email is a delicate tool for marketers. Craft the wrong message or cadence of emails, and you risk being deleted or unsubscribed. But if careful thought is put into everything from the subject line to the CTA button, you will see results. With each email that was deployed, we made sure to keep the audience mindset at the forefront—each message was focused on what Lucky Strike could do for their customer including special offers and promos and what to expect when they returned. 

Lucky Strike’s Denver location is now fully open and operational—with safety protocols in place—and is booked every weekend. We’re looking forward to helping them reopen their next venue while continually evaluating how our strategy is working. In the meantime, we’re working hard to build their brand new marketing strategy to carry the brand into 2021 and beyond.