Fuzic Combines Music and On-Demand Marketing to Engage Customers
Before Brent Oakley co-founded Fuzic, an Indianapolis-based marketing technology startup, he owned carwashes.
He wanted to make his customers happy, so he installed cafes in his carwashes, hoping that he’d be able to chat with his patrons while they sipped beverages and learn more about what they wanted out of a carwash. When that didn’t work, he put up flatscreen TVs that played video content and advertising. His customers didn’t seem to pay attention to that, either.
“They never looked at the screens because they were too busy looking at their phones,” Oakley recalls.
Then he tried hanging print ads in men’s bathrooms. “I was spending a lot of money, but it didn’t feel like we were getting anything out of it,” he says. He was trying to create a “cool vibe” complete with background music, but also wanted a way to make promotional announcements highlighting deals and special offerings at the carwash.
“I wanted something that almost sounded like our own radio station,” Oakley says. He figured if he was interested in something like that, other retailers would be too. He realized what he sought was a way to connect brick-and-mortar retail operations like his carwash with music and on-air pitch people in real time, the way Uber and Lyft connect drivers to passengers. Oakley eventually enlisted Nate Miller for technical help, and the pair launched Fuzic last year.
The company uses licensed music and custom advertising to help retail businesses engage with their customers. The subscription service is managed online, and Fuzic’s customers can access a Web-based dashboard to control music, messaging, and advertising—whether at one store or across multiple locations.
Oakley says what sets Fuzic apart is its roster of on-demand voice talent, always ready to record new ads in real time. Say a Fuzic customer, a café, wants to advertise a two-for-one special on iced coffee that afternoon. After the café makes the request online, usually including a few bullet points to clarify what it’s after, a Fuzic voice actor creates and records the pitch, and, within an hour, the ad will play on the cafe’s speakers. Fuzic’s customers, which number more than 100, pay $129 per month for unlimited access to music and voice talent, he adds.
“We don’t spend a ton of time on ad copy, but if the customer doesn’t like what we come up with, we’ll re-record it,” Oakley says.
Since the 20-person company went live last year, it has steadily gathered steam. Scott McCorkle, the former CEO of Salesforce Marketing Cloud and current executive-in-residence at High Alpha’s venture studio, announced earlier this month that he was coming on board as an investor as well as Fuzic’s executive chairman.
Fuzic has also acquired Pragmatix Studio, a mobile software company started by former ExactTarget developers. (Oakley declined to disclose the terms of the acquisition.)
The company plans to harness Pragmatix Studio’s talent in creating its mobile app, which Oakley expects to release in June. Fuzic recently released the second-generation version of its software, and he aims to increase its number of customers tenfold by the end of the year. Oakley says 80 percent of Fuzic’s customers are outside of Indiana and include Jiffy Lube, gyms, and car dealerships.
Although Fuzic is not the first company to combine music and marketing, Oakley feels that “nobody else does this as a cloud-based service, where the customer gets complete control, and it’s fluid and easy. Before, it had to be on a loop.”
But he hasn’t quite landed on his ultimate goal for the company’s future. “We have a lot of former ExactTarget people on our board, and they understand scalability,” Oakley says. “Businesses want creative ways to reach their customers. It’s a multi-billion-dollar opportunity, so we’re just trying to lean into it.”