It turns out, the voice behind the “BBQGuys” is actually a woman.
Creative director Cullen Boudreaux first joined the outdoor kitchen retailer in 2016 as director of content development and brand marketing after a decade of designing gift wrap and greeting cards for mass-market clients, including Target and Home Shopping Network. Her first couple of years were spent under the ShoppersChoice umbrella of four brands, figuring out how to produce a variety of content that served a range of customers.
Using the skills she learned as an ancient art history and illustration major at the Rhode Island School of Design, Cullen has helped the BBQGuys fire up compelling content on YouTube (86,100 subscribers), Pinterest (3.3 million viewers) and Instagram (38,000 followers).
"Creating content for that was difficult because there's so many different audiences, so many different sorts of missions. It wasn't until [November 2018] when I think everyone just recognized BBQGuys has the most name brand recognition," Cullen says. "This is the one company everyone was really proud to say they worked for. That was the one to put on your LinkedIn."
Once the company aligned with a strong brand, Cullen helped decide what channels could help push the BBQGuys forward and how customers would experience them. Here are three actions she took to improve the customer experience with content.
Move From Awareness to Inspiration
Video was the first channel where Cullen saw a growth opportunity for BBQGuys.
"When we decided to throw all our weight behind BBQGuys, the very first video was a new brand awareness video. It was just simply, why choose BBQGuys? It had just a barbecue happening in a really luxurious outdoor kitchen. And we filmed that just as a prospecting commercial, just to sort of show, it's a lifestyle," Cullen says. "And then once they're aware of us, then we're going to move into more inspirational videos."
After the introductory video, Cullen created "On the Go with the BBQGuys" — an Anthony Bourdain-esque reality show about the grilling and adventures in the Sportsman's Paradise of Louisiana. "That's when, I think for us, content made a pivot from being just product-overview driven, just helping the consumer understand what they were trying to purchase, to becoming more about brand building," she says.
Cullen looks at what's happening on HGTV and Magnolia to help the BBQGuys deepen its brand voice. For her next big video project, she plans to follow a customer as they use the company's 3D design services to build the perfect outdoor kitchen.
Curate User-Generated Content
The customer's educational journey often starts on Pinterest. "That's what people are really looking for, ideas on ‘what is this actually going to look like?’" Cullen says.
The BBQGuys' Pinterest page is peppered with visually driven grilling hacks and galleries of "backyard goals" that will make your neighbors jealous. Now that Cullen has nailed a consistent look and feel on the BBQGuys' Pinterest page, she is focused on repeat purchases.
The company recently hired its first customer retention specialist. Cullen has plenty of ideas for how content can drive those efforts. "So our remarketing video could be the top five recipes for the type of grill this person just bought. I like the 'blank ways to blank.' 'Five ways to throw an amazing party outdoors.' 'The five things you need for the best Memorial Day barbecue.' That's my favorite kind of content."
Cullen and her team also search for the best user-generated content to highlight the strength of the brand. "It's hard to find, but people really respond to it," she says. Cullen looks for the right hashtags on social media to discover gorgeous grill images. "If we find a beautiful grilling picture and we reach out to someone on Instagram and say, 'Hey, we love your picture. We would love to use it,' and we put it in an ad. They almost always say yes. It's just validation for the great thing they've done."
Define What Quality Content Means for Your Brand
With so much streaming content, teams will face pressure to produce more. The higher production levels mean that everyone on the team needs to understand the brand voice and guidelines, Cullen explains.
Maintaining quality when your team produces more content comes down to raising expectations and minding the details, Cullen says. Take the pilot episode of a "how to grill" video series she and her team launched, called Grillabilities. She noticed during filming that the kitchen was out of date. Instead of letting it slide, they repainted the cabinets and replaced the hardware to make the kitchen look better for the cameras. "Quality is everywhere. It's the graphic design. It's the copy. It's the space you're in. The lighting. It's the sound," she says. "You can't compromise on that, even if it means putting out fewer pieces of content every month."
A strong brand guide is key to helping the team produce quality content. "We ended up having to create a pretty extensive brand guide," Cullen says. "So it's photos are lit like sets, two lights on the left, one light on the right. When is a shallow depth of field appropriate, when it's not appropriate? All the way down to ISO [a measure of the image sensor] and camera-editing, so things weren't grainy."
Quality also takes buy-in from the top. "It took a while to just get everyone on the executive level to understand that quality creative in itself is an indicator of brand standards . Making sure creative was consistent, that it would help with brand awareness. I want someone to look at a certain photo of an actual kitchen and think, 'Oh, that's probably you guys,'" Cullen says.
As BBQGuys continues to grow, Cullen sees streamlining project management as a way to scale quality content. The company uses Asana for project management. She was initially skeptical, but "once I was in it and I got everyone else on it, we were like, this is amazing."
The push for improved quality is continuous. On Fridays, Cullen and her team do show-and-tells. Recently, they reviewed how The New York Times Magazine formats its eye-catching photos and graphics differently for mobile, desktop and Instagram. After the review, she issued a new challenge to her team: "How do you make the same piece of content perfect for different channels?"
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