Wacky Promos: Why They Work

By: Gina Lee De Freitas

At a time when restaurant units are dropping, promos seem like a great way to get attention and bring new diners in the door. But don’t most seem a little… stale? There are tried-and-true special offers like dollar menus and blockbuster movie tie-ins. But a few recent promos went above-and-beyond the norm in generating buzz. Here are a few that genuinely grabbed our attention

1. In March 2018, Wendy’s released a hip-top mixtape, hilariously named “We Beefin?” making light fun of competitors like McDonald’s and Burger King. The East Coast-West Coast feud it’s not, but it is on-target with Wendy’s “beefs” it takes to Twitter when criticized, much to the amusement of its fans.

One of the main reasons the wacky promotion seems to work isn’t just because it’s unexpected – it’s also because the five-track tape is unexpectedly good. Music fans chuckled at the unusual promotion designed to delight, but were also quick to point out the music was good. It’s funny and unexpected, consistent with the brand’s voice, and is an enjoyable listen. It wins on all three counts. 

2. An even more unusual product tie-in that created a lot of buzz was the Saucony Kinvara 9 Dunkin’ Donuts shoe. The high-end running shoe brand made a donut-themed shoe, complete with decorative “sprinkles,” coffee bean accents and the Dunkin’ logo.

The shoebox looks like a donut box. The manufacturer said the collaboration is “celebrating the symbiotic relationship between running, coffee and donuts.” Three days into pre-orders, the kicks sold out online.

3. Peter Shankman tweeted Morton’s The Steakhouse from a flight in route for the Newark airport. “Hey @Mortons – can you meet me at Newark airport with a porterhouse when I land in two hours? K, thanks. :)”

When he arrived at the airport two and a half hours later, a tuxedo-wearing waiter from Morton’s was waiting with a porterhouse steak, side of shrimp and potatoes, two napkins and silverware. The impromptu marketing ploy got everyone talking about Morton’s, with earned media that went on for months. 

4. Then there was the Netflix-“Gilmore Girls” stunt, which transformed 250 coffee shops across the United States into a recognizable Luke’s diner, part of the iconic setting of the show. The stunt lasted just five hours on a Wednesday morning, but generated national coverage – mostly for Netflix and the show, but also the coffee shops. It was a clever way for Netflix to generate awareness of the new season and help support those coffee shops to ultimately reach a lucrative target market: the show’s nostalgic, mostly female, millennial fans. A sponsored filter on Snapchat, distributed on cups of coffee at the faux Luke’s, reached more than 500,000 people.

Whether you’re trying to gain brand recognition or attract a key demographic to your eatery, thinking outside the box and creating a short-term stunt or refreshingly unique promo is a fun way to go. As these promos proved, the buzz can far outlast the promotions and stunts themselves.

About Butts in Seats!

When it comes to restaurant trends and marketing, IMM knows what they are talking about. Gina Lee De Freiitas, President of IMM, and Corien de Jong, SVP Executive Creative Director, have more than 25 years of experience in the vertical. So when they talk about the tools, tips and resources your restaurant needs to succeed, rest assured they’ve got it covered.

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