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This article is part of the 2012: Year in Review series from Nation's Restaurant News, which recaps notable news from the restaurant industry over the past year.
The restaurant industry’s most effective digital and mobile campaigns in 2012 showed the power of using new media not for fan acquisition but for fan engagement.
Some were high-profile giveaways like Papa John’s online-ordering promotions that featured NFL quarterback Peyton Manning and tied in with the Super Bowl. Others succeeded by being barely noticeable to guests, like Cinnabon’s and Texas Roadhouse’s behind-the-scenes work to correct and optimize all their individual locations in location-based platforms like Foursquare and Facebook Places.
But whether restaurant brands were communicating via social media or smartphones, they succeeded most by speaking to the consumers who already opted to engage with them in ways beyond visiting their stores regularly.
Nation’s Restaurant News looks at four of the most effective digital marketing tactics from the past year.
Online ordering promotions
Two restaurant chains that have been at the forefront of digital ordering and marketing for years, Papa John’s Pizza and Domino’s Pizza, ran aggressive value promotions through their online-ordering portals to celebrate the fact that so many guests already prefer placing their orders via computer and smartphone applications.
Domino’s, for example, ran “customer appreciation weeks” in June, August and December of this year, offering 50 percent off all pizzas ordered online, via mobile web, or on the chain’s iPhone, Android or Kindle Fire apps. The brand of approximately 5,000 pizza restaurants in the United States started the first weeklong offer after announcing that it had surpassed $1 billion in digital sales during a 12-month period for the first time.
“Reaching $1 billion in online sales during a one-year time period is a major milestone,” chief marketing officer Russell Weiner said, “and we hope offering this amazing deal for an entire week lets our fans and customers know how much we appreciate them.”
Papa John’s also executed two massive giveaways to members of its online loyalty club, Papa Rewards, offering free large, one-topping pizzas to guests already enrolled in the program and driving increases in registration for the club. The first occurred during February’s Super Bowl matchup between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots. Papa John’s supported the giveaway with a large television ad buy for commercials starring chief executive John Schnatter and football players Peyton Manning and Jerome Bettis.
The gimmick for the Super Bowl tie-in was that Papa John’s asked Americans to vote online for what they thought the result of the pre-game coin toss would be, and if the majority called it right, the chain would give away 1 million free pizzas to Papa Rewards members. Brand officials said the promotion was so popular that it drove in part the 1.1-percent increase in first-quarter same-store sales for Papa John’s 3,100 locations in North America.
Manning and Schnatter upped the ante in September to roll out the 2 Million Pizza Giveaway as a tie-in to the season opener of the 2012 National Football League season.