Posts Tagged ‘sample’

Survive Breast Cancer, Get a Free Bloomin’ Onion

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

bloomin onion breast cancer

Well, not exactly, but bear with me and read on if you don’t mind, because I do have an important point here and I sincerely need your help in figuring out the meaning of this marketing.

It all started over the weekend when I was catching some college football on good old-fashioned network television. I was actually getting ready to head out and was coming out of the shower when I heard the Australian voice from the Outback TV commercials in a very serious tone. This surprised me because the guy is usually full of “We’ll put a shrimp on the bar-bie for ya!” optimism and excitement. I listened as the voice explained that Outback was a proud supporter of the brave men and women who risk our lives to protect our freedom on Veterans Day, November 11. And to show this pride and support the troops, any veterans and active-duty military personnel who visit Outback on this day will receive… a free Bloomin’ Onion (regular price, $6.25)!

Something in my gut didn’t feel good. No, it wasn’t memories of the last time I downed nearly an entire Bloomin’ Onion by myself. Rather, I felt that Outback’s promotion was self-serving and potentially insulting to our military men and women.

Now, I’m a big fan of Marketing with Meaning, as regular readers know. And anytime a brand provides a free product or sample to its customers, there’s a good chance it’s meaningful marketing. Denny’s, for example, earned a rave review in my book for its wildly successful free Grand Slam giveaway after this year’s Super Bowl. Such giveaways grab customers’ attention and hit the “free” value button we all have programmed into our heads, which is especially sensitive in this economy. Such offers bring people who are attracted to the freebie, and they end up spending a lot more on full meals and beverages for themselves and the rest of their family members.

Several other restaurants are also getting in on the free food for veterans act. According to an article in Slashfood, Applebee’s and McCormick & Schmick’s are both providing free entrees, and Krispy Kreme is offering free donuts on Veterans Day. And the benefits are extending beyond casual dining; for example, both Lowe’s and Home Depot are offering 10% discounts to military men and women.

The issue I see is that a free Bloomin’ Onion seems so petty for something as meaningful as military service at a time when we are actively losing men and women amid war. What’s worse is seeing this “offer” plastered across our mass-media TV screens in a blatant attempt to convince the majority, non-military personnel that Outback is doing the right thing for real American heroes. Toss in the odd fact that Outback, which aspires to be an “Australian” steakhouse, is honoring American military personnel.

It just feels to me that military service is far too serious a sacrifice to be linked to free appetizers at a restaurant chain. Let’s compare this to the recent cause-related marketing around National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the pink ribbons that have been everywhere from soup cans to NFL players’ gloves. What if Outback ran commercials that said, in a serious Australian accent:

“You’re a survivor. You’ve beaten breast cancer, and are a hero to us all. So we salute you by offering you a free Bloomin’ Onion.”

Ridiculous, right? Or am I wrong? And how is risking one’s life in military service any less odd to reward with a delicious onion app?

Restaurants such as Outback are well-known for one-time gimmicks to lure people into their restaurants, and as a longtime advertising watcher it made me cringe. On the other hand, I do believe restaurants can win by doing more over a longer term. Serving a full meal or entree, like some of the examples above, is a step in the right direction. I do have to give Outback credit for sending some of its employees to Afghanistan to provide meals to the troops, but this is not mentioned in its mass marketing. I think the company should take a lesson from Golden Corral.

Golden Corral is hosting its 9th annual Military Appreciation dinner on Monday, November 16. The company moved its event to this day because it knows that many people have other plans for the holiday itself. And it is offering complete buffet meals for military visitors. Not only is this a real commitment to the troops, but it’s a better brand fit, as most military men and women are on tight budgets and cannot afford the $100 or more it can cost to visit an Outback with their families. Golden Corral is a budget-friendly brand.

Now, this is one of those blog posts where I have a strong opinion, but I am willing to admit that I could be wrong. It is hard to chastise a company when they are doing something with some kind of customer benefit for an important cause. What do you think?

Book Review: ‘Free’ by Chris Anderson

Monday, August 10th, 2009

I was expecting—maybe even hoping—to hate Chris Anderson’s new book, Free: The Future of a Radical Price. As a digital marketer I have seen far too many poor business models pop up, become addicted to annoying advertising, and slowly fade away (e.g., the Bloglines RSS reader is killing me). I felt that Anderson was launching his book at the worst time, just as the economy hit new lows and businesses were burned by failing to act responsibly. I even started putting together notes for a thought-piece on why “free” is wrong and why the “99-cent economy” with iTunes songs and iPhone apps is the real answer. But after reading Free, I have to admit that Anderson is right, and I must thank him for providing yet another pillar of proof that the world must shift to Marketing with Meaning.

Anderson wrote the book with his biggest detractors and doubters well in mind. The result is a book that is well-researched with bulletproof logic and hundreds of examples. As an economics major myself, I appreciated that he went down into the details of this dismal science in order to make his case. He also blends in psychological studies to teach us how we think and react to free versus paid offers. For example, one study suggests that, “Most transactions have an upside and a downside, but when something is FREE! we forget the downside.”

Free aspires to be a general business book and approaches the simple, compelling work of Malcolm Gladwell (The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers). However, I believe we marketers will get the most out of the Free manifesto. Anderson describes how one of our traditional tools, free samples, is powering new business models in industries as diverse as music, retail, and bike rental. But his thinking for us is much deeper…

One of Anderson’s fundamental points is that while the cost of information (and many real-world products) nears zero, the amount of attention people can give to something has remained unchanged. Unless we figure out how to avoid sleep or sprout additional heads, we’re pretty much limited here. This means that consumer engagement—the doorway to selling them stuff—is becoming harder and harder to open. As a result, if you’re a musician hoping to break through, or a game developer hoping to attract players, you are better off giving something away in order to earn this engagement. Once we have their attention, there is a chance to sell them something.

This is actually very much the thinking behind Marketing with Meaning. Because consumers are less willing or able to give their increasingly valuable attention to interruptive advertising, we must try new methods to get their attention. Through free samples or free services—meaningful marketingwe can break through the clutter and begin a dialogue that can effectively lead to sales.

For example, by creating a tool that lets people create their own Simpsons characters, the franchise wins viewers for its programs and movies. By providing live lunchtime entertainment, Healthy Choice has a chance to share information about its new line of Fresh Mixers. And by providing free education for you, dear readers, through this educational blog for more than a year, I have earned the chance to tell you about my upcoming book.

Imagine if the $500 billion in annual global advertising spending was completely diverted away from unwanted, interruptive advertising and toward marketing that adds value to people’s lives. It’s not a utopian dream; rather, it’s the simple economics of a world where the most scarce resource for business is consumer attention. If you’re not giving them something valuable through your marketing itself, then you have little chance to win them over. But win their attention through meaningful marketing, and you have the chance to achieve short-term sales and loyalty for life.