When Is It OK to Give Away Your Product?

Denny’s Grand Slam Breakfast giveaway featured in Super Bowl commercials attracted about 2 million visitors to restaurants across the country. The costs of the promotion include production of commercials, buying air time during the Super Bowl, and of course, the food that was given away. The total costs of such a promotion raise the logical question “Is it worth it?” The answer is “maybe.”

Product giveaway promotions are a good tactic in some cases. Conditions under which this type of promotion is most likely to be effective include:

1. Little brand awareness exists – Sampling is a great way to let a consumer try a product risk-free. If the product is deemed to possess value, consumers may buy it. If not, at least you succeeded in achieving product trial.

2. Entice customers to return to the brand – Customers who have bought previously but for some reason have not made a purchase for a certain period of time may still be good prospects. An offer of a free item may rekindle interest in your brand.

3. The door is opened for future marketing opportunities – Despite all of the hype about Denny’s free breakfast promotion, an even better promotion it is running is a free meal offer (burger and fries) for people who join Denny’s rewards program. More than 300,000 people have taken advantage of the offer already, with a goal of 500,000 by mid-February. Adding this many people to a customer database creates marketing opportunities throughout the year to people who have some level of interest with the brand.

Product giveaway promotions can be costly, and if there are not strategic reasons for such a promotion (e.g., increased brand awareness, greater brand consideration, more customers in database, higher sales) it could be an expensive mistake. If planned with an eye toward future marketing efforts with the target audience, product giveaways can be the inspiration for strengthening relationships with customers.

Super Bowl Advertising: From Exposure to Engagement

The Super Bowl is a coveted advertising vehicle because of the tremendous reach that it possesses. Sunday’s game between the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints will attract nearly 100,000,000 viewers. If the audience size were not enough, the Super Bowl has the added characteristic of an audience that looks forward to commercials rather than avoiding them. What more could a marketer want? How about brand engagement.

Achieving brand exposure is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for selling a product. Let’s face it, brand awareness can be created against someone’s will through repetition and a consistent message (I am thinking of those “memorable” Head On commercials). So, Super Bowl commercials will be seen by tens of millions of people who will do what? Remember the brands advertised? Maybe. Like a Super Bowl advertiser more because of exposure to a commercial? It is possible. Awareness-based metrics are problematic if the aim is to have relationships with customers. For this reason, more Super Bowl advertisers are shifting efforts toward engaging consumers beyond the 30-second spot.

Two examples of advertisers using Super Bowl commercials as a way to drive engagement are Levi’s and Denny’s. Levi’s Dockers brand will be featured in a commercial that encourages viewers to “tag” the ad using a phone app. The app will give access to branded content as well as an opportunity to enter a pants giveaway promotion. Denny’s is repeating its free Grand Slam Breakfast promotion, promoting a food giveaway that will take place Tuesday, February 9th. In addition, Denny’s will be doing a free burger and fries for a year giveaway among persons who register for Denny’s Rewards online. The promotion drives traffic to stores and builds Denny’s e-mail database. At the same time, visitors can learn how to connect with Denny’s on social networking web sites.

The costs of the promotions planned for Dockers and Denny’s add to the cost of being associated with the Super Bowl. The question is whether being seen on the big game (i.e., exposure) is a good enough outcome to accept. Engagement is the name of the game in marketing today, and tactics that make engagement more likely must be pursued.

Denny’s Super Bowl Grand Slam

Denny’s Restaurants made quite a splash with its first Super Bowl commercial on February 1. The restaurant chain promised everyone in America a free Grand Slam Breakfast between 6:00 AM and 2:00 PM on February 3. The $3 million outlay for air time and support advertising online, not to mention the cost of the meals given away, would seem to increase the odds that Denny’s Super Bowl marketing effort would not pay off. All indications to this point suggest otherwise.

The promotion itself was a tremendous success, with Denny’s estimating 2 million customers visited its locations on February 3. Denny’s experienced a spike in web site visits, too, following the Super Bowl commercial. A 23% increase in hits was second only to GoDaddy’s 29% increase. Search engine terms related to Denny’s rose following the commercial airing on the Super Bowl. Also, it is estimated that Denny’s received media exposure of the commercial and promotion valued at $50 million.

Denny’s Super Bowl marketing program was a great success in terms of creating awareness and interest in the brand. The ultimate test of the campaign will play out in the future. Will the investment made on Super Bowl advertising lead to more customers patronizing Denny’s more frequently and spending more money? If those outcomes occur, then we can say with certainty that Denny’s hit a grand slam during Super Bowl XLIII.
Link: Marketing Daily – “Denny’s Free-Breakfast Super Bowl Ad Scores”