Freebies for Foodies

MediaPost did a great little round up of free offers from various restaurant chains in the last few weeks. What they noticed was that several of these brands were able to achieve similar results to Denny’s without having to buy a SuperBowl ad:

Quiznos gave away a million subs in three days after using only banner ads, Facebook and Twitter presence and some free local radio exposure.

International House of Pancakes just completed its third annual National Pancake Day on Tuesday, in which it gives away a small stack of pancakes and in return asks customers to consider donating to the Children’s Miracle Network or a local charity.

Since neither of these programs received much traditional advertising support, they exemplify the power of well managed social media programs:

Social networking and restaurants are a logical match, says Reggie Bradford, CEO of social media marketing consultancy Vitrue. “Food is naturally social,” he points out. “Where do you want to eat? Do you want to grab something here? This is translating to online conversations around restaurant brands. We’ve seen tremendous adoption of social media strategies among QSRs and fast-casual restaurants.”

Combine social media with freebies, and you’ve got marketing dynamite. “Giving away food in these uncertain economic times obviously resonates strongly with consumers,” Bradford says. “Huge gains are being made by brands who are reaching out to consumers with something tangible.”

Given the economic “nuclear winter” that we find ourselves in, free is one of the few words that will truly turn heads. Sure, any moron can give stuff away free. The question becomes, can you give stuff away in such a way that you attract and then maintain new customers as well as reward existing customers for their continued loyalty? Denny’s certainly tried by doubling up their wait staff and making sure that the chefs were up to the task. I can’t speak for IHOP and Quiznos but certainly with all the store traffic their freebies generated, they had the huge opportunity, an opportunity made all the easier via social media.

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