Pimento Cheese, Beer and Azaleas! (And Also Some Golf)
I know next to nothing about golf. I know that you want a LOW score, and that there are many different clubs, and that there is a thing called par. The only courses I’ve ever played on involved pirate ships on dyed-blue water or fiberglass dinosaur statues.
All of this makes me a very undeserving recipient for tickets to the Masters Tournament, which are hard to come by and highly prized. But life is unfair and sometimes bestows great gifts on the undeserving! So when my generous father-in-law scored tickets to last year’s Monday Practice Round, my husband (also not into golf) and I were able to overcome our guilt and accompany him.
I was pretty stoked about going, despite being a golf dunce, because the Masters is a significant cultural event as well as a sporting event. The tournament brings tens of thousands of spectators to Augusta, GA each April. This famously private course is meticulously groomed and features beautiful rolling hills, scenic ponds and thousands of blooming azaleas.
Anyway, we left at 5 a.m., drove the two and a half hours from Greenville to Augusta, waited in the entry line, and entered the course with great anticipation. And then . . . the sky opened up with a massive thunderstorm 25 minutes after we arrived. Everyone was told to leave the course immediately due to safety concerns. That drive back to Greenville was VERY sad.
Undaunted, we returned this year to the Monday Practice Round, and this time the weather was perfect. We were able to walk around the back nine, watch famous golfers hit practice drives and order some of the secret-recipe pimento cheese sandwiches. My father-in-law the golf enthusiast had a blast, and I felt privileged to have visited such a culturally significant event. (And to have eaten such culturally significant pimento cheese.)
The Masters and the Augusta National Golf Club both have reputations for maintaining long-standing tradition and quality above reproach. So it was interesting to me to see the ways in which they upheld and promoted this reputation. I noticed a few things that I think almost any organization or brand could aim to emulate.
Employ consistent branding with consistent quality.
From the iconic green jackets worn by tournament winners to the green cups for imported beer, the tournament is awash in the signature Masters Green color (close to, but not technically Pantone 342, according to officials). Even the sandwiches come wrapped in green cellophane. Plus, the Masters logo, which does not change from year to year, adorns EVERYTHING from caddies’ hats to bags of potato chips. And everything you can see or purchase is of noticeably high quality. That quality is an essential part of the Masters brand. Trust me . . . I looked for something cheap and tacky in the gift shop. There’s nothing but tasteful products, and that’s by design. It’s important to make sure you take every (reasonable) opportunity to promote your brand, and that you make sure you’re portraying it in a consistent way.
Keep it simple, but play up things that make you unique.
While the Masters may have a million wheels spinning when it comes to behind-the-scenes logistics, the overall presentation and experience for patrons is relatively simple and straightforward. Unlike, say, a major league ballpark, the concession options are pretty limited: sandwiches, chips, granola bars, sports drink, domestic beer and import beer. However, everything you buy is excellent; the beer is cold, the sandwiches are amazing and it’s all VERY cheap compared to ballpark prices (about $3 for a sandwich and $4 for a beer). Plus, they offer several signature items that are the subject of much discussion, such as the beloved pimento cheese sandwiches on white bread and Georgia peach ice cream sandwiches. By limiting the food choices, the staff can focus on turning out massive numbers without sacrificing quality, and many of the selections have become an iconic part of a Masters visit. So remember, you don’t have to offer all the bells and whistles . . . just make sure that what you DO produce is uniquely your own and execute it flawlessly.
Offer exceptional, exhaustive customer service.
Last year, after our disappointing rain-out, tournament officials quickly contacted all ticketholders who had fallen victim to the weather. They offered automatic refunds AND the opportunity to purchase Monday tickets the following year. This quick, proactive initiative really made us respect the organization’s dedication to keeping patrons happy. Plus, when you arrive at the course, there are hundreds of staff and volunteers to assist you, and they are all extremely friendly. Everywhere you turn, there is a smiling staff member who is happy to give directions, answer questions and direct lines for efficient service. However, they will definitely call you out if you step out of line; I saw a very polite usher remind a patron to remove his feet from a railing within SECONDS of the infraction. It’s partly because of this massive staff presence, I think, that patrons are orderly, well-mannered and pleasant. It was a great example of how to maintain order and organization objectives while still offering superlative customer service that makes patrons feel valued.
So those are just some of the things that, from a marketing/brand identity standpoint, really impressed me about the Masters. You don’t have to be a prestigious 81-year-old institution to instill a little class and pride in your organization. Just be creative, be true to yourself, and always try to offer customers a world-class experience.
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