Thursday, 3 July 2014

Swing and a Miss?

It really depends on how you look at things.  Is this great idea a hit or a miss?

On July 1st a major Chinese buffet chain in Canada offered a free meal to any Canadian citizen who could prove their citizenship by proffering a passport, birth certificate or a citizenship card.  A hit?  You might think so, with line-ups around the block, with reportedly at least a two-hour, and as much as a four-hour wait to get in.  But why did they do it?  How did this fit into their overall marketing plan?  What was the benefit to the company and to the franchisees who ate the cost? (pardon the pun.)

Let's reverse engineer the activity to the goals, not knowing what the goals were but applying some probable outcomes as though they were planned.

  • Goal #1 - No Sales:  Assumption:  Sales will be very low, as guests who didn't know about the free buffet will decide it didn't make sense to pay for a meal when everyone else in line is getting it free.  Mission accomplished!
    • In fact, it's safe to say there were next-to-no sales
      • In fact, it's safe to say that anyone planning to go there and pay for a meal took one look at the line and chose another restaurant
        • In the hotel biz that's called "compression" - when clients don't get their first choice of property because it's full, so they go somewhere else
          • which is fine if it's full of paying guests
            • and is just plain silly if people are eating for free
  • Goal #2 - Trade off Zero Sales on July 1st for a huge increase in sales the rest of the year:  Assumption:  Sales will grow in the coming year 
    • Because everyone in line was so grateful they'll pay to come back next time
      • Really?  The only people who would wait four hours in the hot July sun are there for a free meal, and probably won't be back until the next free meal deal
        • This isn't the same as McDonald's free coffee offer, which is meant to convert customers from Tim Hortons at the start of their "Roll Up the Rim" offer
  • Goal #3 - Increased Incremental Sales.  Assumption: Patrons who saved money on the meal instead spent an equal amount of money at the bar, or left it in tips for the serving staff
    • Ummm....does anyone really believe that?
      • Bueller?
        • Bueller?
  • Goal #3(a) - Happy Staff
    • see above
  • Goal #4 - Create awareness
    • Are you still trying to guess the name of the unnamed restaurant chain I deliberately haven't referenced?  If so they failed to create awareness.
    • If you have one of these restaurants in your town, you already know it's there.  It's the biggest Chinese buffet.  No further awareness of the fact that they serve food is necessary.  Period.  Now, had the promotion revolved about a corporate charitable endeavour, like a portion of the price of the meal on Canada Day going to support Sick Kids Hospital?  Another story.  It's just not this story.
    • We spent about 10 minutes discussing this in the office this morning, so I guess they were successful in creating awareness after the fact.  
      • none of us knew about it before it happened
        • maybe we're not their target market.  So who was the target market?
  • Goal #5 -  Reward and Recognize only Canadian citizens - (the target market)
    • and piss off immigrants who had to pay. 
      • because everyone likes to feel like a second-class citizen when they go out to lunch
        • no they don't
  • Goal #6 - Anger fellow strip mall tenants and other business owners
    • the line-ups extended well past the front doors of the other businesses, and presumably there wasn't a parking spot to be found as this restaurant's patrons would have occupied all available spaces for a disproportionate amount of time, most of it in a line-up waiting to get in
  • Goal #7 - Create an internet buzz
    • it didn't trend
    • about half of the tweets were negative, referring to the long line-ups (in fairness, the other 50% were either positive or neutral)
      • if they thought to provide water or otherwise make the wait a bit more comfortable, no one tweeted about it (a missed opportunity)
        • and what if Grandma had face-planted into the asphalt in the heat?  Would that have created a buzz?
          • Yes.  Yes it would have.  Especially if someone posted it to YouTube or Vine.
            • They say there's no such thing as bad publicity
              • They lied
  • Goal #8 - Disillusioned Franchisees:  The franchisees paid their staff time-and-a-half for the privilege of not making any money that day.  In fact, they lost money.
    • how is that a good idea?
      • Isn't this the same chain that jacks up the prices on other stat holidays?