Enhanced social-media coupons allow for controlled distribution

Enhanced social-media coupons allow for controlled distribution

Creative Deconstruction

Like many young, growing brands, 13-unit Garbanzo Mediterranean Grill wanted to increase its Facebook “likes” and to create some buzz with a flashy offer. But it worried that a handful of coupons would get copied and shared to a point that would overload its system. 

To maintain control over its buy-one-entrée-get-one-free offer on Facebook and prevent unauthorized sharing and redemptions, Garbanzo employed an Enhanced Facebook Fan Only Offer, which features added security. The digital coupon could only be accessed once by a person who “liked” the brand on Facebook, and the printout included that fan’s name and picture, plus a unique code to help Garbanzo track redemptions.

“Our goal was to grow our fan base and provide an offer for those people we knew were fans, but to do it in a secure way,” said Beth Hardy, marketing and public relations manager for the Centennial, Colo.-based fast-casual chain. “It’s a way to know that our offer won’t show up on some blog or deal site. It’s the personalized way to get the offer to those who already love us.”

A controlled explosion

The brand sent the offer to members of its e-mail club. Requiring customers to “like” Garbanzo before accessing the free entrée deal prevented the coupon from spreading to every coupon-clipping site on the Internet, but it didn’t stop the brand from growing its Facebook fan base. June 24 the chain went from 4,081 “likes” to 5,300 in 20 hours, a 30-percent increase. The brand had more than 6,000 “likes” as of July 7.

The security-enhanced offer was developed out of a need to safeguard the restaurant brand’s marketing ability with its logo and trade dress, said Sam Rubin, chief executive of social-media software and services firm SocialGrub, which executed the promotion for Garbanzo as well as offers for Bruegger’s Bagels, Go Roma and Boudin San Francisco Sourdough. He pointed out as an example that typing “Red Mango coupon” into a Google Images search yields more than 900,000 hits.

“If you upload a graphic to your Facebook page, it ends up on every coupon blog and discount website out there,” Rubin said. “If every penny-pincher website picks up on it, you lose all control. That’s part of the hesitation with social media. Next thing you know, you’ve ‘sold’ 500 coupons and you’re overwhelmed.”

In March Boudin ran a secure offer that generated 3,550 new “likes” in 16 hours, a 78-percent increase, Rubin reported.

Garbanzo had never had a coupon get passed around on the Internet or on social media beyond what it was prepared to redeem, but the possibility of such unauthorized distribution kept the chain from doing a significant offer over Facebook or Twitter in the past, Hardy said.

“The secure offer was an appealing way to ensure that our deal only went to those we wanted it to go to, without overwhelming the system.”

Reaching out to fans

Garbanzo’s secure offer still made the rounds on Facebook, but the chain had measures in place to keep control over the deal. Customers not originally involved in Garbanzo’s e-mail club had to have a friend in the club share the offer with them, then “like” the brand on Facebook. Once the guest “liked” Garbanzo, he or she would receive the secure offer that could be redeemed only once.

“Once we invited people to take the offer and share it with their friends, it still stayed on Facebook only,” Hardy said. “We didn’t have to worry about people ‘liking’ us just to get the offer and then ‘unliking’ us. We saw almost no ‘unlikes.’”

Growing its number of Facebook likes was important to 
3 1/2-year-old Garbanzo because it makes the brand’s marketing more efficient, Hardy said.

“The wonderful thing about having a larger database is being able to reach more people directly with our message,” she said. “Guests also have the ability to talk back to us.”

Using social media to disseminate offers also enabled Garbanzo to extend its reach with customers beyond the mass communications it currently can afford to execute, she said.

She added that Garbanzo would do a secure offer again in the future since it was a cost-effective way to drive traffic and target guests who already were fans of the brand. Hardy also liked that she was able to calculate the return on investment accurately and quickly.

“If you placed an ad or ran a radio commercial, it’s hard to tell if customers in your store are in there because they saw the ad or if they’d eat there anyway. If we put on an offer [via social media] that doesn’t work so well, but then we see another that works better, then we know what our fans want.” 

Contact Mark Brandau at [email protected] [3].