A Lesson From Taco Bell: What Makes Freebies Valuable?

Recently, Taco Bell offered it’s 6 million Facebook fans a free taco redeemable with no strings attached at any participating location.  Interestingly, only 3% of fans took up the offer.  So, what is it that makes a freebie valuable?  What made Taco Bell’s offer so unappealing to its Facebook fans?

For starters, a 99 cent taco lacks the perceived (and real) value that gets a person excited about receiving a prize.  While its great to win anything, 99 cents is easily replaced.

This blog thinks a lack of exclusitivity is what made the promotion fail.  Though it may be true that a promotion corresponding with a new product launch may have increased the perceived value of the giveaway, I do not believe it was the number one deterrant to it’s success.

So what was? 

In my opinion, it was the effort required to redeem the prize that was the biggest problem.  When you think about successful promotions like Tim Horton’s Roll Up the Rim to Win campaign, customers can redeem prizes instantly.  Taco Bell put too many barriers in place for customers to the point that, even if they wanted the free taco, it wasn’t worth the effort.  When it comes to promotions, instancy is the name of the game. 

Though the online landscape has opened doors to interaction between brands and customers online, instant access to physical products has been a barrier to the success of numerous campaigns.  Brands must figure out a new approach to these types of giveaways if they wish to make them worthwhile going forward.

Guy Kawasaki: Enchantment

In the video below, marketing guru Guy Kawasaki talks about his latest book “Enchantment:  The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds and Actions”. Guy discusses what he views as the pillars of enchantment; likability, trustworthiness and great cause.

It’s clear that while marketing contributes to the bottom line, it’s great products that are the cornerstone for any company’s success.  Marketing can optimize the success of a product offering, but without quality products it’s unrealistic to expect enchantment be achieved. What makes your products great?

Social Media Metics and ROI

Since the emergence of social media marketing as a way of maintaining a continual dialogue and brand recognition with customers, brand marketers have struggled to understand the true impact of their online efforts.

Syncapse recently published a whitepaper on  understanding Facebook fan value and key return on investment indicators.  I recommend that any brand marketer interested in better understanding the online landscape and the value of engaging customers through social media platforms read it and consider how to provide relevant content to potential customers (and convert them to brand ambassadors) online.

Similar to a Twitter follower, a Facebook fan will be more valuable if they have a true interest in your brand and product offerings.  The number of facebook fans a brand collects is less important than who those fans are.  In other words, quality trumps quantity.  Knowing who is following your brand will go a long way in understanding their value and the return on your online activities.

What does your company do to assess the quality of your social media following?

Roll Up the Rim is Back!

Today marks day one of Tim Horton’s yearly Roll Up the Rim competition slated during periods of the year when coffee consumption is typically at it’s lowest. I thought this would be a good opportunity to re-post a piece I wrote last year on the growing perception of the contest based on online consumer reaction.  Is Tim Horton’s doing enough to keep customers interested in Roll Up the Rim to Win?

Please Play Again

Last month I blasted McDonald’s for their free coffee giveaway and praised Tim Horton’s for the brand loyalty they’ve developed, in part through their Roll Up the Rim campaign. However, just over a month into Tim Horton’s annual contest, I’m back to acknowledge the shortcomings of my initial comments.

The free flow of communication and information online have allowed consumers to have a much stronger voice when it comes to criticizing brands. No longer can companies hide from their deficiencies without feeling the wrath of harsh consumer feedback through various online channels.

Please Play Again

A search for “#TimHortons” on Twitter will quickly highlight the consumer perception of the coffee shop’s Roll Up the Rim campaign today. Many customers are clearly upset with both the success rate they’re experiencing and the quality of the prizes they receive when they do actually win.

Today, companies are forced to be more responsible for their marketing efforts, and while the online space allows for greater interaction with customers, it also comes with an open line for criticism. This is not necessarily a bad thing if brands are able to respond to feedback through positive change; however, companies unwilling to make the effort must tread carefully. If Tim Horton’s is not careful, they’ll quickly find more and more customers refusing to ‘please play again’.

OpenTable Does Valentine’s Day the Right Way

In my most recent post I asked readers what Groupon could have done differently to avoid the grief they received from customers as a result of a misleading Valentine’s Day coupon.

But whose responsibility is it to indicate that prices may be higher than normal on Valentine’s Day?  Should customers be expected to know that prices are subject to change on certain holidays?

After booking my Valentine’s Day dinner through OpenTable I recognized a disclaimer at the bottom of my confirmation e-mail:

“Holiday Reminder:  This is a confirmed reservation for Valentine’s Day.  Given that some restaurants create special menus, you may wish to contact the restaurant for details about any prix-fixe menus and pricing.  Thank you.”

This simple disclaimer about a seemingly obvious condition protected OpenTable from potential Valentine’s Day scrutiny. OpenTable took the opposite approach to Groupon recognizing that it would be ill advised to assume a customer’s understanding of special circumstances. With new channels of online distribution at our disposal, we mustn’t forget the increased complexity of sales transactions and the importance of clear communication with potential buyers.

Brands that Engage

To date, the majority of brands that have experienced success online have done so by engaging customers through campaigns designed to involve online communities in the brands’ development. One-time give-a-ways and discount offers to followers will attract one-time visits, but brands that truly engage will be top of mind to customers for a much more significant and meaningful period of time. Involving them in the development of the brand, for example, gives customers a rooting interest in an outcome that they’ll follow with interest. Further, when companies accept input and feedback (and actually act on some of it) it makes customers feel like they’re more than just the end purchasers of the product.

Papa John’s recently launched a social media campaign called “Papa’s Specialty Pizza Challenge”. Customers have been given the challenge of creating a new specialty pizza for Papa John’s menu. The top three pizzas will be featured on the pizza chain’s menu through the month of August, with the winner being the pie that earns the highest sales figures.

The contest winner will receive 1% of sales (up to $10,000) for the one year period the pizza will be offered after the contest and free Papa John’s pizza for life. The winner will also appear in a Papa John’s television commercial.

A little like American Idol for pizza lovers, the new Papa John’s campaign is a great example of efforts made to engage customers online. Dominos recently used the online space to obtain feedback on it’s pizza and built a new receipe based on the customer input. Papa John’s; however, is going one step further, linking efforts to incentives that will undoubtedly create a buzz around the campaign. In my opinion, the contest offers more than just financial incentive, but the opportunity for loyal Papa John’s customers to become a part of the ‘Papa John’s family’.

New Nike Commercial: Tiger Woods

Nike has taken some heat for the way they’ve handled their sponsorship of Tiger Woods, for a couple of reasons:

 a) Many are of the opinion that Nike should have stopped supporting him when news broke of Tiger’s now infamous sex scandal.

b) For the controversial advertisement Nike aired with the voice of Tiger’s late father seemingly lecturing his son for his wrongdoings.

Few; however, have considered the publicity Nike has received as a result of their decisions. Tiger Woods appears to be at the top of his game despite a 6 month absence from competition, and professional golf going into this weekend’s Masters at Augusta National, has never been bigger.

While I’m not here to defend Tiger Wood’s actions as a person, I am here to defend Nike’s decisions as a company. If Tiger returns as the world’s top golfer once again, allegations against him will likely be forgotten within a year as focus turns back to his on-course performance.

 Instead of panicking, Nike has turned what could have been a PR disaster, into publicity for their own brand. Their recent advertisement does not ignore Tiger’s recent scandal, something Nike could have easily been criticized for. In fact, with the ad, Nike has taken to acknowledging Tiger’s mistakes, suggesting that sometimes reflection and change are required from even the best. Despite taking some criticism, the ad has been viewed by millions on YouTube and sets the brand up nicely for association with Tiger’s inevitable comeback story.

What do you think of Nike’s continued support of Tiger Woods?