Category Archives: food marketing

Why every business should give away free food

Hurry. You have five minutes left before Starbucks closes its free pastry offer in the U.S. at 10:30 a.m. Eastern time. But don’t worry, the strategy of sampling is here to stay.

McDonald’s is running a Free Mocha Monday promotion through Aug. 3. Kraft is engaging consumers with a First Taste community to share news of emerging products. Former McDonald’s CMO Larry Light told Ad Age a year ago that studies show 80% of consumers prefer a free sample to a coupon — and about a third said they would come back to buy again. Sampling works because customers who take the trouble to visit a store usually buy something else, the samples are typically inexpensive items, and a lift in future sales more than justifies the expense.

Sampling is worth trying in more complex business models, such as business-to-business sales. Whitepapers, free consultations, assessments, workshops and speeches are all freebies that give a little in exchange for getting a lot. In recessionary times, improving your offer could help attract clients. Make a list: What could you give away to lure future customers to your service?

Photo: He@rt

Coors reminds you, use a wide mouth

Thanks to the ailing economy you now can drink beer faster.

Let us explain. Imported wine prices are up 10% in the UK and expected to rise in the States, due to high oil prices and a crumbling dollar, creating a sweet opening for domestic brewers. Coors Light has made aggressive strides in the past two years to return to its advertising “mountain” roots, leaving blondes in bikinis and the Freudian Silver Bullet train behind. Sales in the past 12 months are up 8 percent.

To build momentum, Coors is pushing its product packaging into look-at-me territory. Colored ink in labels turns blue when the temperature is just so. And if you’ve ever worried that your beer can did not provide a “smooth pour,” rest easy, because Coors Light now comes in “vented wide mouth cans” that use a trick of air to unbubble the beer flow. The billboards proclaiming this are damn ugly, and damn noticeable.

It’s all good for Coors. Finally, something to ease the pain of the SUV depreciating in our driveway.

Photo: Richard Kelland

Chips Ahoy! speeds up repurchases

Taking a page from Keebler, Nabisco has redesigned its Chips Ahoy! cookie packaging to increase consumption and speed repurchases. The packages have a resealable-lift-here-flap thingy that eliminates the past barrier to eating the entire package — you know, the fact that the cookies formerly came in two wrapped sheaths. Even a glutton who burned his way through cookie sheath A would stop and think, nah, better open the second one tomorrow.

But now, that barrier is gone! The packaging hints of the Keebler clear plastic trays that buckle when you try to push them back in, tempting you to eat more. The takeaway for your own marketing — how can you encourage your own customers to repurchase more quickly, while making it seem like a benefit?

(The fruit on our table also has easy-open packaging, but for some reason, nature’s marketing just isn’t as compelling.)

Free lunch today: How McDonald’s flips the bird

Interesting bit in Advertising Age this week on the age-old marketing question of discounting. If you give stuff away, do you erode your brand?

Both McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts are betting no. Today, May 15, both food chains are giving away millions of free chicken biscuits and ice coffees, respectively. Former McD’s CMO Larry Light tells Ad Age that the strategy of sampling is different than discounting; meaning a small freebie entices repeat consumption, while simple price cutting can erode the brand. Light’s current consulting firm Arcature has a study showing that 80% of consumers prefer a free sample to a coupon, and one-third said they would come back to buy again.

However, this data is misleading, because not all business models have the built-in repeat purchase patterns as popular national food chains. A typical consumer might visit McDonald’s or Dunkin’ Donuts scores of times each year, so there is a high likelihood that a small freebie today will entice the consumer to buy again in his or her next visit to the retail location. For other businesses where the innate consumer repeat purchase is very low, discounting against perceived reference prices might encourage more sales than freebies while protecting margins (after all, the margin on “free” is zero).

Marketers should monitor giveaways carefully for the overall impact on total consumer consumption, cost per sale, and lifetime value. But if you do have free food, please give us a call. PS: McDonald’s, your chicken for breakfast idea is a brilliant way to repackage your existing products. We smell a hit.

The Keebler cookie upsell moment

The photo above presents one of the most amazing packaging achievements in the history of marketing. It’s the “Keebler cookie upsell moment.”

You know. You pull the cookie tray out to get just one cookie, and then … you can’t jam the plastic tray back into the outer sheath. The clear plastic tray starts to buckle, the cookies bulge out. Yep. Forced to eat an ENTIRE row.

Which reminds us that most marketers fail to structure their own upsell moments. Every time a customer uses your product, you have an opportunity to get them to use more. We recently spoke with a gift company and suggested they send direct mail to new customers about two weeks after receiving the gift by mail, when the customer was still high on the product experience. Would everyone buy more? No. But the response rates should be double that of people who never tried the product.

So thank you, Keebler, for the inspiration. We’re sure this little package moment accelerates the repurchase pattern and drives up your revenue and profits. Now will someone please stop us.

The heck with POS price displays. They should promote service.

Valentine’s Day. We rushed through Stop & Shop, the New England megalo-grocery store, trying to grab provisions to cook sweetie dinner. We got lost in the aisles, hated the signage, and were ready to write a scathing piece on stupid point-of-sale displays that obstruct consumer decision cycles.

And then we left the fish behind in the bag.

We returned 45 minutes later, 8 p.m. to pick up the missing groceries … and met stellar service. The teenage clerk at the checkout register directed us to the service desk, who had our food, except for the fish, which had been returned for refrigeration at the fish counter. The fish dude handed the last missing item over, gave a big grin and said, “No prob, man, cook it up and have a nice dinner.”

We did. Which makes us wonder. Why don’t they hire a service guy like the fish dude to direct lost hungry souls in the aisle? For his salary each year, we’d cover it and a bonus by buying more fish.

Pepsi in the raw (with real sugar)

You may not remember Pepsi Twist, Pepsi Samba, Crystal Pepsi, or Pepsi Holiday Spice. But stand back. Pepsi Raw is a new healthy-vibe, all-natural version of the soft drink being launched this week in UK bars. It’s made with apple extract, caramel coloring, real cane sugar, a touch of coffee leaf, and no artificial preservatives or sweeteners. Real sugar. Sweet.

A few critics have noted the irony of launching a healthy cola in Liverpool pubs. We say Pepsi is going after the key social connectors. You know, that guy you want to be like in the Liverpool pub. Nicely played, PepsiCo (and bring it on in the U.S.).

Sex, bread and videotape

We’re usually not fans of sex in advertising, but Grain Foods Foundation gets the naughty balance just right. Here Gretel follows crumbs to her Hänsel, where we learn that bread is high in the stuff that makes healthy babies.

The beauty is this spot obviously targets young women who shop for food, isn’t shocking, could be seen by an 8-year-old without parental remorse, has an incredibly long product shot, makes us laugh, and also somehow makes us hungry (the sandwich in the last shot looks delicious). Nice balance. Nice finish. Bonus points for the cross-promoted web site, which advocates baby health.

Bread, you’re looking fine.

(Tx AdGabber.)