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When Firehouse Subs partnered with King’s Hawaiian to offer the King’s Hawaiian Pork & Slaw sandwich, it was the first time the sweet bread producer had partnered with a restaurant chain. To commemorate the occasion the “Lei Your Love on the Line” video contest was born.

“The original concept was more music-based,” explains Melissa Simpson, manager of social media for Firehouse of America. “But we expanded the idea during the planning stage to allow people to submit a video showcasing their love of the new sandwich in any creative way they wished.” As a result, in addition to songs, Firehouse Subs found they had a YouTube channel full of poems, dancing, drawings, humorous skits and even puppets. “Of course, the free trip to Hawaii as the grand prize didn’t hurt either,” says Simpson.

The goal was to generate excitement and online buzz for the new sandwich, as well as 50 video entries. It was a tall order, considering the challenges and level of participation in video campaigns is notoriously small. “We ended up with 67 entries on our YouTube channel,” says Simpson. “We saw how talented our fans were and the lengths they would go to showcase their love for the new sandwich and for the brand.” Founders Chris and Robin Sorensen were the contest’s official judging committee.

“We received dozens of emails from the contestants saying how much fun they had with the contest and thanked us for the opportunity. That was the icing on the cake,” says Simpson. “We ended up sending all entrants a gift and a note from the founders.”

In addition to the videos, Firehouse Subs’ Facebook Page grew by more than 24,000 likes, and their online consumer sentiment scores also saw a five point increase. “We attributed that to people talking positively about the new sandwich. The King’s Hawaiian Pork & Slaw sandwich remains our most successful LTO to date,” says Simpson.

According to Simpson, contestants were very appreciative that founders Chris and Robin took the time to watch their videos. “It meant a lot to people, even if they didn’t win,” she says. “We were able to connect our customers to our brand in a human way.”

Lessons learned

Get more bang for your social-media buck by partnering with companies that can help offer incentives to boost participation. “Any time you can work in a co-brand opportunity that makes sense for both sides, do it,” says Simpson. “In this case, we were able to partner with the Hilton Waikoloa Resort on Hawaii, the Big Island, to offer the grand prize getaway. Co-brands help with any budget limitations, which we all have to work around.”

The campaign was solely promoted online and through social media. Next time, though, it will have an offline component. “If we were to do something like this again, we’d expand to include in-restaurant elements as well.”

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