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.

Where Do You Post-It?

If you’ve seen 3M’s latest efforts to sell Post-It Notes, you might be puzzled by what seems a non-traditional approach.  Post-It Notes’ current marketing campaign has targeted what was once a secondary customer group; the at home user.

In an increasingly paperless world Post-It Note usage in office environments will undoubtedly continue to decrease forcing 3M to proactively consider what other potential customers will contribute to revenue going forward.  While it may be some time before Post-It Notes are considered completely obsolete, the brand is smart to push for market growth in alternative customer segments.

Facing similar problems to the publishing industry, 3M is clearly attempting to make the most of it’s traditional business model while it searches for new revenue streams to fill the void that will one day exist in it’s office product line.  Innovative publishers must take a similar approach as they search for new opportunities in the digital space.

Aflac Looks for New Voice

Known for it’s strong social media presence, Aflac (and its trademark duck) recently entered some unfamiliar waters… hot water.

After making a number of insensitive cracks about the recent disaster in Japan, the voice of the Aflac duck was relieved of his duties.  As a result, the insurance company was in need of a new voice to represent its brand through the various social media platforms that it has been active on over the last several years.  However; what could have been a public relations disaster has been parlayed into a creative social campaign designed to find the next voice of the Aflac duck.

Aflac’s quick response to the situation distanced the brand from the opinions of  the its former spokesperson.  While incidents like these are unfortunate, the company’s deep involvement in social media allowed it to reach customers quickly to involve them in a search for a new voice.  This involvement has not only helped people forget about the recent comments, but will also undoubtedly lead to a voice that customers can resonate with.

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?

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’.