Vanilla slice slice baby…video messaging tips from baking supremo Steve Plarre

By Sarah Stowe | 22 Apr 2020 View comments

Franchising’s Mr Entertainment, Ferguson Plarre Bakehouses CEO Steve Plarre, has never been shy of putting on his dancing shoes for the network’s gala night.

And so now with the coronavirus restrictions putting the spotlight on video messaging, Plarre’s creativity has really taken flight.

While he may be a natural, not everyone has the same ease in front of the camera. So Inside Franchise Business spoke with him about putting together a video and to find out his top tips.

A songwriter since his school days Steve Plarre trialled what he calls ‘cheesy stuff’ on LinkedIn. Then when the virus struck, the song writing took on new meaning.

“We started to think what happens if cafes have to really close? What do we do? Ferguson Plarre is all about happiness, so how do we keep the relationship with customers going over crisis?”

The marketing team looked at existing assets and things that would not cost a great deal to use.

“We thought we might do some videos, me singing, and my brother cooking from home, how to use ingredients. We looked for what are the quick and cheap and easy ways connected to the brand story to roll out if we needed.”

For a month the marketing team made a list of songs with cheesy puns: another one bites the crust, good will baking, piehemian rhapsody…

“Then COVID-19 started to bite. I like doing musical stuff. I started doing Facetime Live, with my daughter and we got lots of views. 

“The marketing team came up with a Corona Oke competition, asking customers to give us all their favourite bakery-based songs and we’ll choose a winner for me to parody.

“The measurement is Facebook likes, they have to follow and share and comment. We’ve increased engagement by up to 300 per cent on the back of that. It’s quite genuine – it works because it’s me, in the family, with kids.”

Melbourne radio station Gold FM was able to provide a studio for some serious production, and Plarre’s wife Kate brought her media studies experience to create a video.

The audience is ready to be entertained and amused, Plarre says.

Coming up are Mothers’ Day and Uber Eats videos, to be followed by a vegan winter menu song.

“We’ll try and bring some comedy to that, to be really tongue-in-cheek.

“If marketing has a spin, they’ll let me know. We try and find a song that’s very popular or has been around a long time. I try and find a syllable that rhymes with baking words…anything with ‘i’ is great. Tonally the song needs to have the same vibes as the theme.

“For a long time I wrote music, did a couple of albums. It’s my go-to creative thing. It’s a total release. If I wasn’t doing the bakery business, I’d be at home strumming my guitars.

“Hopefully this will be more of a regular thing, this is fun.”

Steve Plarre’s top engagement tips

  1. Look for talent in your network, from head office, operations to franchisees. Tap into their secret thinking that could align with your brand promise.
    “We have people who can do Indian dance routines or are good pianists, I’m about to work with a barista who plays in a church band.  I really want to move this into our network – it’s retail as entertainment.”
  2. Think creatively about how to engage through video chats with staff or franchisees – maybe have a joke ready, or gamify the process, or put a food challenge out to franchisees in a regional group.
  3. Look to customers to create or inspire content – then you can show ‘this is Jane’s idea from last week, and this is how it came to fruition’.
  4. Be brave, understand the boundaries of the brand, and show leadership that encourages creativity.

“Now you have people’s permission to do brave stuff and have some fun. I think brands have the capacity to do something and if it goes wrong, people are forgiving.”