Digital Media Slam a window into high-impact promotions

Strategic approaches to social media, loyalty net profitable results

When it comes to digital and social media marketing, it’s often more about crafting an engaging message and less about how much money is spent. That was the overriding takeaway from Saturday’s Digital Media Slam, a panel discussion involving marketing and technology leaders.

IHOP, for instance, was looking to expand its lunch and dinner sales and raise the profile of a newly added burger. The brand drew huge media exposure and saw a major bump in its burger sales as the result of a simple tweet announcing it was changing its name to IHOB. The playful announcement and accompanying digital/social campaign turned heads around the world from IHOP fans and media alike; the end result was in more than a million tweets, 27,000 media articles and 42.6 billion earned impressions. It also quadrupled the number of burgers sold. At the height of the campaign, 500,000 burgers were sold weekly.

Michael Chachula, executive director head of IT IHOP and international for Dine Brands, said boldness and out-of-the-box thinking are essential in an era when companies like Amazon and Uber dominate. “You can be big and bold, but don’t be stupid,” he said. “This was planned like putting a man in space.”

When White Castle added the Impossible Slider, a vegetarian burger, to its menu, the brand’s digital and social media marketing piggybacked on public reaction to promote the change. “We let the story write itself,” said Lynn Blashford, vice president of marketing for the burger chain. Knowing customers would be scratching their heads over the addition, it devised YouTube videos and social media posts that reflected their reactions. The message ran along the lines of “What the What?”

Tropical Smoothie Cafe takes a data-centric approach to marketing with a focus on driving frequency, said Brian Best, vice president, digital marketing, loyalty and MarTech for the chain. “It’s not sexy, but a database is key,” he said.

Best recommended that operators without e-clubs start one by capturing emails through contests and promotional offers. But loyalty programs drill down deeper and are even more effective, providing personalized information that can be used to track spending and target offers based on dining habits. And Best called paid social one of the most cost-effective ways to raise awareness of digital campaigns.

Corner Bakery Cafe also relies on paid social, said Donna Josephson, senior vice president and chief marketing officer. “Spending $315 to boost one post exponentially drives engagement,” she observed. Corner Bakery’s Instagram and other social media accounts make an effort to be engaging by animating—a new cold brew isn’t just a photo, it’s a gif—and tying posts into holidays.

The bakery chain’s e-club has more than a million members, who Josephson said provide an already engaged target market. “These are people who have an affinity for us. We know their interests and we can talk to them,” she explained. The club members respond well to discount promotions on less-busy days, for example.

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