Bringing carwash loyalty to the metaverse

Loyalty hits the metaverse

How a popular carwash is leveraging NFTs to gain members.

Creating a unique customer experience is in Soapy Joe’s DNA. The company’s focus on unparalleled customer service, 100% commitment to innovation and sustainability, and one-of-a-kind events that foster community permeate its 10-plus-year history in San Diego, California. The company has developed a cult following of its signature air fresheners, which fans, aka the Soapy Squad, actively collect. 

The Passport to Fun promotion amplified fans’ collector behavior and catapulted the company into the web3 metaverse through the distribution of air freshener-themed NFT collectibles — the first in the carwash space. Over the course of the three-month promotion, the company minted an unprecedented 17,704 NFT digital tokens and created nearly 3,000 custodial wallets for thousands of Soapy Joe’s members.

Turning air fresheners into an NFT program

Known for its sweet citrus scent as well as smiling mascot, Soapy Joe’s vibrant air fresheners can be seen in car windshields across San Diego. Limited time offer (LTO) versions are released annually for holidays and special events. Last summer, the company dropped 16 location-specific designs that reflected each of the company’s neighborhoods, both in-real-life (IRL) and as NFT digital collectibles.

To access the NFTs, along with a host of swag and perks, members were encouraged to visit multiple sites unlocking four prize tiers as they went. Poised for massive multi-unit expansion, Passport to Fun highlighted a key value proposition — unlimited washes at all sites. The promotion primed customers to expand their product use habits, setting the stage for new store openings. 

Passport to Fun covered multiple business imperatives and marketing objectives in one program. Continuing the team’s quest for novel ideas that positively impact customer experience and retention, they looked to technology that is bleeding edge in any industry: the metaverse.

Blazing a trail

The Soapy Joe’s philosophy is that customers expect a great experience regardless of what industry you are in. As such, the brand focuses on creating world-class engagement programs and less on price-based promotions.

By trailblazing, the team captures the attention of users and press alike. Through innovating in the NFT space, using digital tokens as loyalty rewards, Soapy Joe’s tapped into new press segments: technology, cryptocurrency, metaverse and web3. The company joined earned media conversations and was positioned with A-list names and blue-chip companies, which experimented with NFTs contemporaneously. National top-tier publications covered the program with articles, podcasts and social, as well as those within the carwash vertical.

Stimulating user-generated social content was another key driver of the program. Participants had multiple sharable moments, such as reaching each tier threshold, receiving prizes and displaying their air freshener collections. The company’s contact database was enriched, as email was required to play.

Finding a partner to build and manage the NFT process was a significant milestone for the campaign and helped bring shape to relevant tactical components. Ensuring that appropriate IRL components complemented the digital NFTs was a focused effort by the Soapy Joe’s team, as deemed mission critical by partners. 

The days of simply having a brand NFT have passed and ensuring there is either a community with active dialog or a purpose-driven IRL value is imperative to market relevancy. As such, 16 NFTs matching the LTO air fresheners were minted on the OpenSea web3 platform. Then, they were air-dropped to customers as “passport stamps,” documenting their journey through the carwash sites. The company wanted to ensure the cutting-edge technology was easy to understand and adopt, so user-friendly emails and blogs were written to explain saving and adding to existing web3 wallets. 

Enhancing the customer experience

Ensuring that each customer’s personal journey was reflected in the NFT deliveries drove much of the design build phase. Customized reads of POS data were necessary to ensure the NFT partner was able to mint and air drop custodial wallet links for each customer’s unique four-site drop. 

This variable data was emailed to customers as milestones were hit, along with links to an online swag store for physical prizes. The Soapy Joe’s call center engaged thousands of customers over the three months to check progress, deliver stay-cation experiences for Tier 3 achievers and apply the one-year annual membership credits to Tier 4 accounts. A single big cash prize winner was pulled from the qualifying Tier 4 members and announced on social media.

Passport to Fun had four tiers: 
Tier 1 (four sites): hat, key chain and gas coupon
Tier 2 (eight sites): 15-inch plush Soapy mascot toy
Tier 3 (12 sites): a day-cation
Tier 4 (16 sites): an annual membership and a chance at $5,000 cash. 

Each tier included four NFTs uniquely matching each customer’s site visits. A post-promotion survey was sent to ascertain which of the prizes and experiential aspects were most motivating to participants.

The promo drove 22% more member visits at four to eight locations (Tier 1) than ever recorded, as compared to typical member behavior, which favors consistent use of a home site and occasional use of secondary and tertiary sites. 

A paradigm-bending number of fans visited 12-plus sites (Tiers 3 and 4), resulting in an 800-fold increase in member visits to these sites. Twelve percent of participants made it to the top tier, visiting all 16 required sites. Hundreds visited 17 sites, an “extra,” new carwash location that opened mid-promo. Soapy Joe’s customers are clearly all in on the collector mentality, as Soapy Joe’s did not request customers to visit the 17th site. Those members who visited the 17th site were surprised to receive an extra NFT documenting that neighborhood and completing their digital collectible set in addition to the IRL air freshener received on-site.

Soapy Joe’s innovation in technology, loyalty and experiential marketing continue to surprise and delight, with thousands of customers participating in Passport to Fun, thousands of NFTs awarded, and company social and digital benchmarks shattered.


Anne Mauler is a multi-award-winning marketing executive who loves to talk shop and brainstorm. With a background in high-growth, high-volume restaurant concepts and B2B/B2C software sales, she often waxes poetic about the lead funnel and conversion rates. She is a proud Iowa Hawkeye living in San Diego, driving her three kids crazy when not driving leads.

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