3 marketing trends from the Top 500 chains
Restaurant chains the size of Starbucks and Sonic often have sophisticated marketing operations backed by huge budgets. But some of the marketing tactics trending this month are simple and within the reach of growth chains like Smashburger. Here’s how chains of varying size are tweaking their marketing approaches.
A burger in the hand is worth a lot of likes
A panel of millennials gathered by the Smashburger fast-casual chain suggested the brand post pictures on photo-sharing sites from the point of view of a guest holding the food. Instagram "likes" took off, says CMO Josh Kern. Shake Shack has earned multiple "best of" social media honors, including a recent Shorty Award nomination for its Instagram filled with burger-in-hand photos.
Sonic Drive-In designed square shakes specifically for Instagram postings during the Coachella music festival; revelers simply clicked “Shop Now” on a Sonic Instagram ad and “paid” with a post of the shakes. For #getfried, a french fries chain in New York City that just started franchising, social media is at the center of all branding.
Acts of loyalty
Chains are trying new strategies for bolstering loyalty. The most controversial may be Starbucks' new approach. Customers now rack up stars based on dollars spent, not visits. The promise is speedier service, since the system deters guests from ringing up items separately. But customers have criticized the new payback system, saying it's a push for higher checks and a possible yellow light for visiting more than once a day. The summer could be the test of whether the new arrangement is a plus or a detriment to the king of loyalty.