Reporter's Notebook

Outback Debuted LTO Steak Flights Via Google Hangout. Why?

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Outback Steakhouse debuted its LTO steak flights via Google Hangout. Likeable Media CEO Carrie Kerpen explains why social media and Hangout are valuable during product launches—and as marketing tools in general.

When Outback launched its limited-time offer steak flights and cake pops in May, they did so through a burgeoning social-media channel: Google Hangout.

The 22-minute hangout featured Outback marketers and chefs chatting with “real life” customers who asked questions about the new menu items. It was 22 minutes dedicated to talking about all things Outback—especially the new menu items and how cravable they were.

Outback chose to use Google Hangout because it’s such a personal social media channel, said Desmond Edwards, vice president of marketing services at Bloomin’ Brands Inc., Outback’s Tampa, Fla.-based parent company.

“It’s like watching television and interacting with the television in a unique way,” he said. “You can ask questions and get Outback’s perspective right away.”

Carrie Kerpen, chief executive officer and co-founder at Likeable Media, a New York City-based social media and word-of-mouth agency, said she has seen product launches happen “quite a bit on social media” lately. However, she said, Google Hangout was a unique choice.

“Their choice is likely that they want to use video,” she said, adding that while Twitter and Facebook have a lot of users, they don’t have the same level of direct engagement as Google Hangout.

It’s smart for companies like Outback to focus on social media for their marketing, Kerpen said. It’s direct marketing at its most direct: Find your fans, and give them perks—perks like being the first to know about the new steak flights.

“It makes a big statement about why you should join their communities,” she said of the hangout. “They’re providing exclusive information to their fans. It’s a very good idea to do that.”

Besides, she said, social media marketing makes business sense.

“You’re eliminating the need to heavily advertise something because you’re going directly to the people who love you the most,” she said. “It’s announcing something to a cheering squad.”

Outback’s steak flights start at $10.99 for sirloin and $19.99 for filet, and come in two- or three-piece servings. The steaks are cut into 3-ounce pieces and are topped with a choice of four sauces: Creamy Diablo, Brandy Peppercorn, Bearnaise, and Wild Mushroom.

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