In episode 74 of Amplify Your Business, Lance is joined by Andrew Kinnear, founder and organizer of Freebruary, a month-long promotional campaign platform for Canadian brands and makers. This week's episode is all about how Freebruary, inspired by the fable of the Stone Soup, provides great deals on Canadian brands to consumers while also enabling brands to leverage their network and reach a wider audience than they could on their own.
(0:46) What is Freebruary, and why did you start it?
I'm an entrepreneur out here in Ontario where my wife and I own an ice cream brand. When the pandemic hit, we needed a way to get in front of people and get awareness, because the typical sampling opportunities had dried up. Freebruary is based on the old fable called "stone soup", where some travellers arrive with a pot filled with water. They tell the villagers that they're going to throw a party, and all they have to do is come by and drop something into a pot. Eventually, everyone puts something in and the village has a massive pot of stone soup that started from nothing. Translating this to brands, we asked ourselves "how can a bunch of small businesses get something from nothing?", particularly how can they get awareness and trial?
When we first launched last year, we invited brands from all over the Canadian business spectrum to participate. We convinced these brands that if they all came together in the same place, then they would get the momentum they need to get support from other, larger organizations like trade organizations and the media. There are no costs to the brands (short of the deals they offer in the campaign) to get this level of trial and awareness. This appealed to lots of different companies, and in our first year we had over 100 different brands participate! We found that consumers and brands alike loved the idea, and we're back again this year.
(4:51) And so this is a month-long campaign that only runs during February, correct?
Yes! It's a month-based campaign, like Movember and Veganuary, lasting the whole month of February. It goes in phases - we're lining up supporters in November, and getting small businesses to sign up during December-January. The consumer doesn't start to see much until everything goes live in February - we market the campaign ourselves, but the participating brands share it with their own audiences too, which helps to amplify the campaign momentum. It's really about leveraging the fact that we have tons of brands participating. At the moment, we have over 100 consumer-focused brands participating in Freebruary! Largely it's made up of small packaged goods companies, with some other technology companies and others mixed in. Last year we had a much broader spectrum of brands participating, but we've narrowed it down to provide a more Canadian centric, consumer focused experience.
(9:04) What kind of reach do you have across Canada?
We're coast to coast! There's a concentration in Ontario because we had support from Ontario Made, but there are members from across the country. We focus less on the "where" in the country, and more about the fact that these brands are Canadian, producing and selling their products in Canada for Canadians.
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(10:40) Why only one month of the year?
We don't want this to come off like a deals site - that isn't what we are. Another important part is that many of our member brands are small businesses that can't afford to give away free products all the time. We want to keep things as low cost and accessible as possible so entrepreneurs don't see it as another thing they have to dump money into. We're a break from that - it's cost effective, finite, and provides great opportunities for consumers to try new brands while the businesses themselves can expand their reach and encourage trial of their products.
(14:25) What does the "free" aspect of Freebruary look like?
That's the neat thing about this is - we see some great creativity from different brands in the offers they provide! For my company, Yellofruit, we offer a buy one-get one free deal on our ice cream pints. How we do this is have people provide us their information, and then we send them a coupon. This helps us because we grow our email list organically. The other aspect is it's a channel for distribution - lots of the brands in the campaign are direct-to-consumer, so they provide discount codes and other benefits because Freebruary is an awareness channel for them. The offers they create are so different depending on their business needs and goals, which I think shows how grass roots this is. By offering this flexibility, we're able to have a lot of different brands in the campaign.
(18:10) You're also doing these weekly draws. How do those work?
We're doing 12 draws over the course of the 28 days in the month. When each draw closes, the next one opens, so the customer has to keep coming back if they want to win, which helps create more awareness and consideration. This is our number one engagement tactic (the draw entry and thank you pages are the top pages on the site, we even added extra links on the thank you page to encourage visitors to stick around). Being in the draws is also a huge benefit for the businesses. They may have to put up a case of product, but they get exposure to thousands of potential customers at the same time. Our prize bundles have over $10,000 worth of different Canadian products. Some brands will put their products in, others will add coupons, it's all about what they can offer.
(22:42) This could be a huge lead generation tool for the participating brands (the database of draw entries) - do you share this information with them?
From a privacy point of view, we don't feel comfortable sharing a list like this with the brands. We also don't think it would make sense for the brands to input a bunch of random names in their lists. We do use it for our own promotional purposes, but the real value is for our supporters. Our supporting organizations LOVE the fact that there are hundreds of small businesses participating in Freebruary, and by supporting us, they get access to the participating brands. These supporters usually provide their own draws for professional services like marketing, analytics, consulting, and video production, just to name a few.
If you want to get involved with Freebruary, you can reach Andrew firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also reach him about his ice cream business, Yellofruit, at yellofruit.com. Find Freebruary on Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook as @Freebruary.
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