The strange, green color of Dave’s Gator Sauce might turn you away or make you excited for a taste. The uncommon color, taste and labeling of the product is seen proudly displayed in its bottle at many restaurant throughout Galesburg. If it happens to catch your attention, know that was the goal of Dave Dunn when creating the brand.
Besides owning and operating Dave’s Auto Body, Dunn also owns Masters Educational Services, a consulting and market managing firm. This operation teaches people from all over the world how to increase work output and market efficiency within a business. The group is constantly searching for new and exciting ways to improve upon a brand.
For Dave’s Auto Body, Dunn understands that the work they provide is a need-based system. In other words, no one goes to a body shop unless they need to invest in the provided services. There is no marketing gimmick that would make a person want to wreck their car, so in Dunn’s mind, the most they can do to encourage people to come in is to build a brand.
“It’s hard to have a relationship with somebody if you only see someone every seven years, which is statistically how often you see someone in collision repair,” Dunn said. “So we have many things, Gator Sauce being one of them, that continues that relationship outside of any transaction.”
Dunn went on to explain the theory behind the gator sauce as a marketing tool is inspired by the Purple Cow Theory. The theory simply states that if you are driving near a farm and only see black and white spotted cows, they are indistinguishable and unremarkable. However, if you were to see a purple cow, you would pull over to the side of the road and tell all of your friends about it. This is where the inspiration for the green coloring of the sauce comes from.
The sauce itself is not made by Dunn or anyone in the shop, but is rather bought and relabeled through a company supplier in Louisiana called Cajun Chef Sauces. Dunn expressed no true interest in labeling himself as a chef or food connoisseur, but rather saw an opportunity to create a product that would get the community talking.
The cost of providing this sauce free of charge at the body shop ($5 a bottle for an online purchase) is close to $20,000 a year, after production and labeling has been accounted for. Throughout a typical year, the shop will distribute nearly 5,000 bottles total. Though the price might seem steep at face value, Dunn doesn’t see this as a setback, but rather a necessary expense for the business.
“When people ask me about the expense of such an endeavor, I ask them how much would they pay to develop a customer who has never walked through the door before and to create a new relationship with more people,” Dunn said. “We’ve had grocery chains ask to sell it for us and help spread the product, but I feel that that would defeat the whole premise behind it.”
The road to strategizing this marketing tool was a unique path. Dunn dropped out of high school at 16 and immediately went to work at a body shop. He recalls “how terrible they were,” which inspired him to start his own shop at 19 in Knoxville. It only lasted about a year, when a Mercury dealer asked him to take over their business in a management position.
Dunn recalls this opportunity expanding his knowledge of the business on a larger scale. In an unfortunate turn of events, the shop caught fire and burned to the ground, leaving Dunn jobless at 22. This caused Dunn to move back to Galesburg and start fresh. Dunn started researching new business techniques and even wrote his own book, titled Liquid Amalgam. From there, he claims “the rest is history.”
“Marketing has always been a big deal to me,” Dunn said. “The book covers the basis for the Masters educational program and management philosophy. We’ve had about 6,000 people go through the course. The liquid part is about flexibility, and the amalgam is about ideas, principles and so on that are a basis for making decisions. The hope is that we can teach people to creatively fix problems that might come instead of having to script everything.”
Dave’s Auto Body now makes roughly $5,000,000 a year in business, which Dunn explains is unheard of in a town the size of Galesburg. He believes it’s the only town in the country that has anything like it. Only 35 percent of the business comes from the 61401 zip code, meaning much of the business is coming from out of town.
“The way I see all of these marketing efforts, as long as you’re consistent in community and have a theme associated with it, you’ll have a chance to catch on,” Dunn said.
The Gator brand now works throughout the Galesburg area under the group named Gator Events. The group looks to increase community involvement and donation events, including a benefit run and even going as far as to dressing up as Gator Sauce bottles and participating in the polar plunge. Dunn sees this connection as a key to continue growing the ideals behind the product.
“People have great ideas all the time,” Dunn said. “For us, it’s not about making a buck or two on a bottle of sauce. It’s about forming relationships in unusual ways.”