Restaurants: Don’t let your marketing stunt land you in the doghouse

Marketing Bites: How a hot dog chain’s Bluey promo went awry. Plus: Zaxby’s partners with MrBeast and Popeyes jabs Chick-fil-A.
Bluey and friends
Bluey and friends. | Image courtesy: Ludo Studio

Marketing Bites

Today’s object lesson in restaurant marketing:

If you’re going to host a family-friendly event themed around a cartoon dog that’s wildly popular among preschoolers and their parents, make sure you don’t wind up in the doghouse.

A Las Vegas outpost of Los Angeles-based hot dog chain Dirt Dog advertised a free Bluey Day! on its Facebook page, and 3,000 people RSVP’d. The event, held Saturday, was to have Bluey treats, a Bluey marathon, games, face painting and an all-important meet-and-greet with Bluey and friends.

That last part, apparently, is where things went awry.

According to local media reports, parents and kids lined up out the door for the event. But they were met by costumed characters that looked little like the real deal, prompting some children to cry and the restaurant to issue an apology.

“I was mad,” one kid was quoted as saying. “He looked unexpected. We could see his beard.”

The Facebook page for Dirt Dog’s Bluey event is now a seemingly endless litany of complaints. A small selection:

“Bluey isn’t Bluey just a man in pj’s and they ended face painting early.”

“When you order your bluey event from Wish.”

“About to request a 1v1 brawl with whoever made this event. Real talk.”

In its apology, posted on social media, Dirt Dog said it was overwhelmed by the turnout for Bluey Day! and that it will “continue to improve on our events so we can ensure nothing like this will happen in the future.”

Dirt Dog apology

Image: Dirt Dog Instagram.

Zaxby’s partners with MrBeast

MrBeast, the YouTube star who became a ghost kitchen entrepreneur at the height of the pandemic, is now working with chicken chain Zaxby’s on a meal bundle.

The MrBeast Box, which launches Thursday with a starting price of $12.99, includes four Chicken Fingerz, Crinkle Fries, Cheddar Bites, two slices of Texas Toast, two signature sauces and MrBeast’s new Feastables Milk Chocolate Bar.

Atlanta-based Zaxby’s said the box is “only the beginning” of a year-long partnership with the YouTuber, whose real name is Jimmy Donaldson.

MrBeast Burger parent company Virtual Dining Concepts (VDC) has been engaged in a protracted legal battle with Donaldson, though there is one physical location of MrBeast Burger at the American Dream mall in East Rutherford, New Jersey, along with digital outposts.

Popeyes borrows some marketing mojo from Taylor Swift

A promo that harkens to a pop-culture phenom while also making a not-so-subtle dig at a competitor? The Popeyes marketing department just might be stirring up some bad blood with Chick-fil-A.

Popeyes is launching a Hungry Loyalty Department promotion (an homage to Taylor Swift’s new Tortured Poets Department release) as a thank-you for National Customer Appreciation Day on Friday.

The promo offers Popeyes Rewards members a free chicken sandwich (in the form of 600 bonus points) with any purchase of at least $10.

As a jab at Chick-fil-A, the bold letters in the promotion’s marketing materials spell out “OPEN SUNDAYS.”

Popeyes promo

Photo courtesy: Popeyes

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