Of all types of marketing, I find local as challenging as any. But a recent experience at a local Red Robin restaurant taught me that sometimes traditional thinking can be much more effective than the online methods we have become dependent on (and definitely more suitable than some of the hocus-pocus being sold as “SEO” by unscrupulous vendors).
A while ago my family and I were out and around and decided to visit Red Robin for dinner. It’s a fun atmosphere for the kids and pretty good burger for a chain.
When we got there, my son and daughter immediately noticed the coloring pages all over the front wall. Kids had put crayon to paper and entered Red Robin’s coloring contest and the restaurant was putting the entrants on the wall. The contest winners received an award and a free kid’s meal.
Of course, my kids wanted to enter. My son, who is seven years old loves art projects and is also very competitive. So he did his best coloring work and entered it into the contest. Red Robin collected our names, email, phone number and kid’s birthdays on the entry form.
We thought nothing more of it until the ride home when my son mentioned he thought he had a chance to win the contest. Remembering the hundreds of colored sheets on the wall (many of them very good) we humored him but realistically didn’t give him a chance at the prize.
His expectancy continued over the next couple weeks when he continued to ask us if the restaurant had called to tell him he won the contest. We told him they hadn’t, and tried to brace him for the disappointment of not winning.
I was at my desk in the home office a bit later when my wife walked in and gave me the old “You won’t believe who I just got off the phone with” routine. You guessed it: It was Red Robin (the restaurant, not the bird).
The girl on the phone informed us Eli was “one of the winners” and as a result for a free kid’s meal, certificate and could come meet the Robin himself.
Suffice it to say, my son was excited, although, not surprised. But it was all marketing brilliance.
Do I think my son’s picture was well colored? Sure. Do I believe it was one of the best of possible hundreds on the wall? No. And the contest judges probably didn’t either. But they are savvy marketers.
Of course, my son wanted to go to Red Robin that very night to claim his prize and get is picture taken with the Robin. And, of course, we ate dinner there as a family that night. While his meal was free, we still dropped $30 on the rest of the family but left feeling like we’d been treated like winners. And guess where my son always wants to eat?
So let’s walk through the marketing that went into Red Robin’s plan
They engaged a responsive audience
First, the campaign was directed at current customers. We were in the restaurant. We had experienced the product and would likely be responsive to the campaign.
They made it obvious and easy…but compelling
My kids didn’t have anything else going on. They saw the pictures on the wall, colored and turned them in. The barrier to entry into the campaign and the difficulty to respond was negligible.
It was inexpensive
The cost of printing the coloring pages was miniscule and the restaurant already gives out the crayons. I’m not sure how many “winners” they called or emailed, but I bet it was a lot. The cost of the free meals is considered an acquisition expense that’s covered and recouped easily in the parents that accompanied the child to his/her free meal.
They collected data
This is the most important key. Red Robin made me willing (through the compulsion of my kids) to give them my name and contact info. Right into the CRM system it goes where I am put in the hopper for later contest notifications, coupons and other promotions.
They created a lasting, positive impression
As a family, we now have a very favorable impression of Red Robin. Sure, I know it was a marketing ploy. But it worked. My kids love that they got to color and “won” the contest. We love that the restaurant made my son’s day and gave him a boost of self esteem.
And we’ll keep going back because we get regular promotions and discounts from their CRM system. All in all, it makes for a nice, tidy marketing case-study all organizations can learn from.