Hometown hero: How building goodwill can multiply your marketing efforts
Photo courtesy of Jacquie Baly/Facebook
“Gallery Furniture Saves You MONEY!”
So goes the cry of one of Houston’s most beloved treasures, “Mattress Mack”. If you’re lucky enough to reside in the sticky city, “Mattress Mack” (a.k.a. Jim McIngvale) and Gallery Furniture, the store he started forty years ago, are names you know. He’s on par with the Kool-Aid Man or Tony the Tiger. But unlike those fictional mascots, McIngvale is a real person who takes every opportunity to get involved in and give back to his community. This, in turn, has earned Gallery Furniture not only unwavering love from the people of Houston, but national media coverage from ABC News, Good Morning America, NPR, and more.
Check out the ways McIngvale has cemented Gallery Furniture in the minds (and hearts) of Houstonians — and get a few ideas for how you can make an impact in your own community.
Helping out during times of crisis
McIngvale has made putting his community and neighbors first a core component of his business. And when disaster has struck his city, he’s consistently been one of the first to step up. Case in point: during Hurricane Harvey in 2017, he opened his store to shelter people who were left stranded by flood waters. Countless media outlets covered the story, including NPR, ABC News, CBS This Morning, USA Today, and Fox News. FEMA even published a story on the heroic deed. Watch the ABC News coverage of the story below.
McIngvale didn’t stop there. He also sent first responders to see the Houston Astros play in the World Series and provided Thanksgiving dinner for 5,000 people affected by the storm. Below is his interview with Michael Strahan on Good Morning America announcing the dinner and giving away free furniture to a woman who lost hers due to flooding.
Good Morning America/YouTube
Aligning your brand with your community’s values
Every city has a sports team they love. For Houston, that’s the Astros. When the Astros made it to the World Series, McIngvale made a big bet with his town. If the Astros won, he said, he would give refunds to customers who spent $3,000 on mattresses.
But McIngvale wasn’t sweating the $10 million he now owed his customers. As he told the Houston Chronicle (and picked up by the New York Daily News), "It's the best thing we could ever possibly do. The Astros inspired the city. We're thrilled to give this money back to excited customers. We bleed orange out here."
Providing continuous philanthropic support
In addition to stepping in when needed or capitalizing on current events, Gallery Furniture also supports several non-profit organizations, including the United Service Organizations (USO) and the Big Brothers and Sisters of Greater Houston program. The Gallery Furniture website even has a call-out to community in their main navigation, further solidifying it as a vital component in their mission.
Local effort, national impact
To see the impact of McIngvale’s community commitment, all you have to do is look at Gallery Furniture’s Facebook page — almost 600,000 likes. (McIngvale’s own Facebook page isn’t too bad either with over 300,000.) And the national attention Gallery Furniture has received because of his efforts is the stuff marketers in any vertical dream of.
There are valuable lessons that community financial institutions can take from the “Mattress Mack” story. The fact is, no one from a big-box store would have the kind of power that “Mattress Mack” has. Aiding victims of disasters in real time, tapping into the community’s interests — these types of initiatives can only be done on the local level.
The megas don’t know your community. The neos don’t either. By putting your community and the people first, you tap into a marketing and PR machine that cannot be replicated by non-local institutions.