Katherine LeBlanc readily admits she has “no artistic ability whatsoever.”
This not only makes her representative of the people who come out to Painting With A Twist events— it probably helps her, as the firm’s chief marketing officer, to understand the unique customer experience (CX) the company and its franchisees have to provide.
Founded in 2007 as Corks N Canvas and aimed at bringing fun back into New Orleans communities devastated by Hurricane Katrina, Painting With A Twist has evolved into a program that invites guests to a studio that pairs expert instruction in art with wine and cocktails.
The emphasis is not on the quality of the work, however, but the quality of the time spent. The firm’s marketing includes taglines about “making fun art, not fine art,” and “making memories, not a masterpiece.” This approach is critical given Painting With A Twist Is not necessarily aimed at would-be Picassos and Van Goughs, LeBlanc says.
“The product you’re buying is the experience, not the painting you’re walking out with,” LeBlanc tells 360 Magazine. “When guests arrive, we’re not only walking them through an artist-led instruction but trying to help them let loose and let go of everything they came in with — helping them connect with who came in with them, whether it was a friend or a stranger.”
Whether it taps into the growing emphasis on nurturing creativity in business or simply offers a novelty form of entertainment, the “paint and sip” idea is clearly finding an audience. Painting With a Twist alone now boasts 280 franchisees across 41 States. The biggest challenge, according to LeBlanc, is simply getting them in the door.
“Once they’re here it’s primary colours on a paper plate, with two brushes and very simple instructions,” she says. “It really starts from the first words that come out of the artist-instructor’s mouth, and no two artists are alike. Some are natural comedians and can get everyone to set the type-A personality they bring to work aside. Others are good at getting people to interact about things they might otherwise be guarded about.”
Given their pivotal role, LeBlanc says Painting With A Twist tends to look for artist-instructors who have a background in the service industry, whether it was waiting tables or serving at a local grocery store. This ensures they have the right soft skills along with the technical abilities to help inspire creative thinking.
Painting With A Twist Of CX Management
Having reached this point, LeBlanc — who joined the firm as CMO about a year and a half ago — says her focus is on better understanding what elements of Painting With A Twist events need to be consistent across its franchisees to ensure it is recognizable as a brand and differentiated from competitors. This doesn’t just include other paint-and-sip companies, she adds.
“There are a lot of other experience-based brands, whether it’s the local escape room or a trampoline park, or an axe-throwing venue,” she says. “People can lump us in with those kinds of concepts when they want to go out to do something unique. The other question is, how do we get you to come back?”
Part of this involves looking at elements like the design of the studios themselves (most of which can accommodate groups of between 30-50 people, she says), as well as the kinds of background music tends to elicit a positive response. LeBlanc is also exploring the possibilities of segmentation within the firm’s e-mail list to drive loyalty, as well as text-based communications down the road.
While collecting customer feedback to drive further CX improvements is also on LeBlanc’s agenda, there was one response form a guest that may provide Painting With A Twist some of the most valuable data it has to support its mission.
Painting With A Twist Of Brain Science
Just over a year ago, a researcher at Baylor University released the results of a study, “Examining Couple Recreation and Oxytocin Via the Ecology of Family Experiences Framework”, by publishing them in the Journal of Marriage and Family.
The study involved recruiting 20 random couples between the ages of 24-40 and splitting them into two groups. One group of couples played board games at home or in a familiar setting.
The other group went to Painting With A Twist (or an outing like it). They painted beach scenes with their initials in the sand, and afterwards did that most romantic of activities:
They provided a urine sample.
By examining the urine (and pairing it with a survey), the researchers found that in both groups, these kinds of activities increased the release of oxytocin — sometimes dubbed the “hugging hormone.” The men who participated, however, twice as much or more as the level of women painters and couples playing games, according to the study.
“It happened in the field. A franchisee was approached by a doctor who had had a good time at one of our date nights,” LeBlanc says. “It puts into concrete, tangible words what creativity and letting loose with that side of our brain can do — not just for yourself, but in terms of your relationship.”
Whether or not that data is formally used in its marketing, LeBlanc says it helps drive home the power of CX and how it can manifest itself on a physiological level, not just an intellectual one.
“I continue to be reminded of why we’re doing what we’re doing,” she said. “It’s all about providing a care-free escape that people didn’t know they needed.”
Shane Schick tells stories that help people innovate, and to manage the change innovation brings. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing magazine and has also been Vice-President, Content & Community (Editor-in-Chief), at IT World Canada, a technology columnist with the Globe and Mail and Yahoo Canada and is the founding editor of ITBusiness.ca. Shane has been recognized for journalistic excellence by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.