Longevity can be both a blessing and a curse for brands. On the one hand, it helps marketers establish a loyal customer base. On the other, it can cause brands to get stuck in their ways and struggle with reaching new audiences.
Take West Coast–based hot dog chain Wienerschnitzel. Like many quick-service restaurants (QSR), Wienerschnitzel's average visitor tends to skew a little bit older — approximately 43 years old. But the 54-year-old chain can't survive on these core customers alone.
"As [those customers] get older and health becomes a little bit more of a factor, we really want more of those younger generations for the longevity of the brand," says Sharick Leigh, VP and account director for the brand's advertising agency Adville/USA.
Wienerschnitzel wanted to generate awareness and interest among millennial customers while still appealing to its current base. To attract both audiences, Wienerschnitzel worked with marketing automation and analytics platform Smartify and added online and email components to its traditionally in-store "Cash in on a Corn Dog" campaign.
The fourth annual "Cash in on a Corn Dog" gives customers the opportunity to win free corn dogs or cash prizes (up to $1 million) in-store. All they have to do is eat one of the QSR's battered-encrusted sausages and uncover their winnings on the corn dog's stick. If customers win in-store, the stick reads "Free Corn Dog" or lists a monetary value. However, only one out of every four corn dog sticks contains a prize. So if the remaining 75% didn't win on the spot, Wienerschnitzel directs the non-winners to its online sweepstakes for a second chance. Customers can then visit the campaign's site and enter the numerical code printed on their corn dog sticks for the chance to win a smaller biweekly prize of $1,000 or a grand online giveaway of $10,000 at the end of the promotion. Participants can also win additional online entries by following the brand's Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter accounts and partaking in social activities.
Along with promoting the campaign on social media, Wienerschnitzel ran ads through inserts, print, and television. Additionally, the QSR emailed members of its loyalty program, The Wiener Lovers' Club, every two weeks to announce the winners of the online promotion and provide members with free online sweepstakes codes. Leigh says that Wienerschnitzel has used email to promote events in the past and hopes to build its loyalty program's database through "Cash in on a Corn Dog." Once customers join the loyalty club, they continue to receive emails on other events and promotions, as well as free chili dog coupons on their birthday and on their anniversary of becoming a member.
Although Wienerschnitzel distributed campaign-related corn dog sticks only from August 25 to the end of October, participants have until January 31 to enter in their codes online. So far, the company has seen dog-gone good results. As of the second week in December, more than 96,000 unique visitors viewed the campaign website; 46% of those visitors decided to register and participate in the promotion. What's more, chain-wide sales in September were up 5.3%—without having to discount any products, Leigh notes. In fact, Tom Amberger, VP of marketing for Wienerschnitzel, says that the QSR intends to run the promotion again in 2015 due to its success this year.
"Wienerschnitzel's Cash in on a Corn Dog promotion created buzz and excitement for our brand that resonated [enough to drive] increased sales and customers counts during the eight-week promotion," Amberger says. "The chance to win $1 million was a compelling offer and, as a result, our corn dog sales increased significantly."
Despite the success of the campaign, Wienerschnitzel still doesn't know if it achieved its number one goal: attracting younger customers. Adville/USA's Leigh says Wienerschnitzel is using Smartify's dashboard to review data gathered throughout the promotion and analyze what kind of audiences Wienerschnitzel attracted during that time. She adds that the QSR will have a better idea of whether it met its objective by the end of the promotion.
Still, learning how to talk to customers online proved to be a powerful lesson for Wienerschnitzel. Doing so, Leigh notes, can help the QSR not only drive traffic in-store to online, but also online to in-store.
"We spend so much time and energy on the brick-and-mortar consumer," she says, " [given that] the future is going digital, it's very important to start getting those learnings now so that you're able to talk to [consumers] going forward."
This article first appeared on dmnews.com.