“Goodbye convenience store. Hello goPuff”—this is the motto currently spreading like wildfire across ten major U.S. cities (and counting) through the merits of Philadelphia-based branding firm Neff Associates’ partnership with goPuff, a startup on-demand delivery app that offers convenience store items to customers in under 30 minutes for a delivery charge of only $1.95.

The firm worked closely with goPuff to develop and execute a cohesive media strategy to tell the story of a pair of innovative then-22-year-old Drexel University students responsible for launching a cutting-edge mobile app that specifically caters to the young professional with an “on-the-go lifestyle.” goPuff aims to make convenience even more convenient and is disrupting both the mobile delivery service market and traditional convenience store business models.

Neff Associates Bulldog Award winner

Pictured L-R: Jessica Olenik, Kelly Wolf and Abby Littleton of Neff Associates

Read on to see how Neff Associates and its client not only got that story out, but met and/or exceeded numerous goals and objectives to raise the brand’s media presence and consumer visibility—and then earning a Silver Award in the “Best General Consumer Campaign” category in Bulldog Reporter’s 2017 Media Relations Awards.

The Challenge: Neff’s goal was to create buzz through targeted promotion of the app and delivery service in both Philly and other emerging goPuff markets, along with national media outreach to continue to generate buzz around the expansion of the company’s capabilities across major U.S. cities.

Neff Associates’ partnership with goPuff“The initial challenge we faced with the campaign was the reputation behind the brand’s name,” says Jessica Olenik, Account Executive at Neff Associates. “goPuff got its start by delivering hookah and tobacco products, and despite the stigma this attached to the brand, the founders were reluctant to change the name in order to stay true to their identity. Keeping the name ‘goPuff’ gave them the opportunity to share their story.”

In addition, “Prior to working with Neff Associates, goPuff’s supporting media coverage did not depict their services in the clients’ ideal image, but it created public interest, established the key demographic of young adults and college students, and provided a launch point for us to elevate the brand,” she adds. “The driving force behind our media relations strategy was to educate the media and communicate that goPuff is not only an app, but a convenient delivery solution.”

The Strategy: Through competitive research and corporate analysis, the campaign team identified goPuff’s strengths to leverage—and weaknesses to improve on—prior to laying out a strategic PR plan. The goal was to elevate the reputation of the brand first in the regional market and then build on that foundation to establish a national presence.

Neff Associates’ partnership with goPuff“A unique challenge with goPuff was the youth and inexperience of the two 22-year-old founders, Yakir Gola and Rafael Ilishayev,” Jessica shares. “Instead of hiding their young age or allowing it delegitimize their company, we capitalized on the timely trend of millennial entrepreneurs in the corporate world and their passion behind their business. Their status as students at Drexel and their local ties to the Philadelphia area also generated strong support from the community, who regarded them as ‘hometown heroes.’”

Through brand research and staying abreast of both editorial and industry trends, the team found a variety of ways to capitalize on goPuff’s relevance to consumers. The firm researched current and emerging mobile-app and Millennial trends, both regionally and nationally. In this extensive sweep of Philadelphia’s editorial landscape, three prominent topics stood out: stories about Millennial entrepreneurs, new launches of various delivery apps, and an overarching theme that the consumer is always looking for ways to save time.

goPuff’s expansion could not have come at a better point in time—with Philadelphia’s thriving Millennial population and tech startup scene booming, the city is constantly evolving, the nation is noticing and goPuff fits perfectly into the mix. In order to target key Millennial consumers, the Neff team followed the trends to curate specifically targeted national and regional media lists to identify select media influencers and capitalized on all possible opportunities to showcase goPuff. Ultimately, they aimed to leverage goPuff’s success within Philadelphia as a model for subsequent market launches.

The Execution: The campaign team communicated with the cofounders Ilishayev and Gola regularly, and worked together to meet their PR objectives to promote the brand’s rapid growth as it expanded into new markets across major U.S. cities. The team worked in tandem during its partnership to continue to elevate the goPuff reputation to new heights, positioning it not only as the nation’s premier “convenience on-the-go” mobile app for life’s essentials, but as the most progressive and cutting-edge app of its kind.

Neff Associates’ partnership with goPuff“First, Neff Associates used existing media relationships to test the waters and provide important feedback to the client. From there, we began building relationships with new media outlets,” Jessica reveals. “We made certain that our agency was well-researched on previous coverage, as well as appropriate outlets and beats that would provide effective coverage for the brand.”

They also focused on publicizing the brand’s talented cofounders to guide the media and key publics through goPuff’s journey, from conception through its evolution to its present business model. “We focused the campaign with a more localized approach, tailoring it to meet the needs of consumers in each individual market,” Jessica offers. “For example, providing a 20% discount in some places and a free pint of ice cream in others. Also, launching subsidiary companies like goBeer and goBooze for certain urban areas where they would be successful.”

The primary objective of their media relations strategy was to communicate that this app—started by two then-22-year-old Drexel University students with a shared entrepreneurial vision—is not only an app, but a solution, created by Millennials, for Millennials and the key consumer who places high value on the essence of time. They also had the responsibility to publicize each individual market launch and support goPuff’s goal to launch in 18 cities by the end of 2016.

“At Neff Associates, we believe our best campaigns come from a fully integrated approach. We work strategically with both our public relations and creative departments to ensure that our social media campaigns fully leverage our PR team’s initiatives, while also maintaining a consistent brand voice and aesthetic,” Jessica explains. “In return, we are able to leverage PR placements by tagging outlets and editors for an increase in reach and engagement, while also producing high quality content. Producing the highest quality content for our clients is something we pride ourselves on, as it accurately reflects the brand and results in increased engagement.”

Neff Associates’ partnership with goPuffNot surprisingly, the team had to overcome obstacles that threatened to derail the campaign strategy—but their quick thinking and re-strategizing kept the campaign moving forward. For example: “Prior to goPuff working with Neff Associates, an article was published in a regional media outlet that misreported them as a ‘smoking paraphernalia delivery service’ early on in the formation of the company and cast a negative shadow on the brand,” she says. “We focused our efforts on getting goPuff as much positive press as possible in order to trivialize the negative reputation associated with the brand as a result of this editorial coverage.”

The Results: goPuff saw an immediate impact from the efforts of the team’s 2016 PR campaign. Neff Associates secured valuable editorial coverage for goPuff from regional news syndicates to national publications. Through media outreach, the goPuff app and its co-founders have been featured in both national and regional top-tier business, technology and lifestyle-focused press mediums.

“Our main objective was to educate the media on goPuff and their commitment to timeliness and convenience, as well as their mission, philosophy and background,” Jessica relates. “It was our goal to elevate their reputation in both Philadelphia, and the other newly-launched locations. Neff Associates did this by securing 65 press placements in a span of only nine months, making over 78 million impressions and providing an estimated PR value of over $2 million.

The Neff team successfully met the following key objectives on behalf of the brand:

  • Educated the media on goPuff’s company mission and its background as a local Philadelphia start-up that is changing how convenience store products are sold
  • Successfully promoted upcoming launches of new goPuff mobile capabilities within new targeted markets
  • Successfully promoted goPuff’s first alcohol delivery capabilities with the launches of goBeer in Philadelphia and goBooze in DC
  • Educated the media and key publics about goPuff’s philosophy that time is the ultimate luxury and saving that for its clients is a top priority
  • Communicated how goPuff’s delivery services takes convenience on-the-go to a whole new level
  • Elevated the reputation of the goPuff brand in the Philadelphia region and beyond
  • Positioned goPuff’s co-founders Yakir Gola, Rafael Ilishayev, and Marketing Director Jacob Levin as thought leaders at the forefront of innovative app developers
  • Created and nurtured existing relationships with national and regional media and key influencers on behalf of goPuff
  • Continued to raise visibility of goPuff’s innovative business model in both the mobile technology and retail spaces
  • Raised awareness for goPuff’s rapidly growing startup and unique backstory while focusing on the innovation of goPuff in the mobile delivery service market that specifically caters to the young professional with the “on-the-go” lifestyle

As a result of the rapid success and growth goPuff experienced on the heels of the campaign, the brand gained a competitive advantage over mobile services and delivery titans like Amazon, Instacart, PostMates and corporate-run convenience stores like 7-Eleven, QuickCheck and Wawa.

In just nine months, the media relations campaign netted 65 PR placements, garnering over 78 million impressions, has since helped goPuff earn the reputation as the “Wawa On Wheels” within the media and has even been categorized alongside Amazon. Due to the PR efforts, Philadelphia Media News Network also nominated goPuff as a “2016 Stellar Start Up.”

And in addition, “As a result of our overall strategic media relations impact which ultimately laid a strong foundation for the goPuff brand, both cofounders were recently named to the 2017 Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list in the ‘Retail & Ecommerce’ category, an award they truly deserve,” Jessica offers.

Key Takeaways: The multi-regional nature of the effort taught the firm that one strategy does not fit all—and that it takes a flexible approach to spread success around the country. “We learned how diverse audiences can be in different regions, and how important it is for an agency to adapt and modify the strategies behind a single campaign in order to fit the needs and wants of each targeted market,” Jessica says.

Secrets of Success: Jessica offers the following insights from the team’s experience, which you can use in your next consumer campaign—and demonstrating why Neff and its client won Silver in Bulldog’s 2017 Media Relations Awards:

  • Encourage clients to listen to needs of their consumers—and strategize the best way to capitalize on this from a PR standpoint.
  • Tailor your campaign to the specific market—especially if it spans over a large geographical location or is present in several regions.
  • Carefully assess the initial reputation and predisposition of a client or a brand, and work to create a plan that aims to successfully elevate their brand and tell their story in a positive light.

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Richard Carufel

Richard Carufel

Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders.

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