Microsite playing key role in Fazoli’s marketing ‘revolution’

Microsite playing key role in Fazoli’s marketing ‘revolution’

LEXINGTON Ky. Fazoli’s [3] ongoing “Italian Revolution” marketing campaign incorporates the accelerated delivery of messages and offers demonstrated in the first phase, as well as coupon redemption rates worth fighting for, management said. —The latest uprising in

Fazoli’s distributed Web coupons for 50,000 plates of complimentary pasta and garnered 44,000 new contacts for its marketing database during the Revolution initiative’s first six weeks, said marketing director Stacy Hettich. That part of the campaign focused on driving traffic to the new www.freespaghetti.com microsite and, ultimately, into the 265-unit quick-service chain’s restaurants. —The latest uprising in

Freespaghetti.com launched Jan. 5 amid public-relations messages that said Fazoli’s believed American consumers were entitled to a Wall Street-like “bailout” of free pasta with a coupon from the Web and the purchase of a beverage. More than 216,000 people visited the site in the first month and a half, Hettich said. —The latest uprising in

The content at freespaghetti.com recently was modified to draw attention to the Fazoli’s 20th anniversary, promote several new sandwiches and baked-pasta dishes, serve up multiple coupons and give visitors a chance to win free pasta every week for a year. —The latest uprising in

“Our goals were [to foster] public relations, reinvigorate the brand, drive the database [numbers higher] and drive consumers through our front door,” Fazoli’s president and chief executive Carl Howard said of phase one. —The latest uprising in

Severe weather in January, including Kentucky ice storms, closed 26 percent of the chain’s restaurants for two days and 15 percent for three days, resulting in “unfavorable” comparable-store numbers despite the revolutionary marketing tactics, he acknowledged. —The latest uprising in

Howard, who joined Fazoli’s in mid-2008, has been charged by Sun Capital Partners Inc., Fazoli’s owner of three years, with turning around the chain, which had estimated systemwide sales of about $314 million for the fiscal year ended in March 2008. Fazoli’s has seen its unit base shrink by about a third during the past six years. —The latest uprising in

“We’ve had over 50 TV stations pick up the information” and “we’ve been on a ton of [Internet] coupon sites,” Hettich said of the introductory phase of the Italian Revolution and the launch of freespaghetti.com. She reported that consumer feedback in the restaurants and in e-mails “was positive” and that managers have been e-mailing her with notes of satisfaction, as “there is a lot of excitement about this in the field.” —The latest uprising in

Howard has his own reasons for revering the revolution. —The latest uprising in

“The people who printed out [freespaghetti.com] coupons are redeeming them at a rate of 15 percent,” he said. —The latest uprising in

With the chain’s regular e-mail marketing, if 7 percent to 10 percent of the recipients redeem the offer “that’s good,” the executive noted, “and if we’re at a 1-to-2-percent redemption rate for direct mail or shared mail, we’re pretty happy.” —The latest uprising in

In addition to being less costly to use for communication than Sunday paper inserts and direct or shared mail, the combination of microsite and e-mail “is lightning-quick,” the CEO said. —The latest uprising in

“We’re six to eight weeks out to do shared mail or traditional direct mail,” Howard said. But with new media, he added, “Stacy and I could spend all night tonight redesigning new creative, and I could hit all of our [database] people tomorrow with a new message.” —The latest uprising in

The freespaghetti.com microsite, Fazoli’s first, has a number of interactive and multimedia flourishes, including a humorous faux newsreel video from YouTube and a tool that lets visitors “splat” friends, or e-mail them tomato-drippings-adorned photos. Visitors can pester or inform friends and acquaintances by sending them a “Pasta-Gram.” —The latest uprising in

Pasta-Gram technology, along with “splat” capability and YouTube video, is designed to make it easier for users to promote the site to others in the hope that a frenzy of such sharing known as “going viral” would start. —The latest uprising in

The Italian Revolution marketing platform calls for the “overthrow of overpriced Italian” foods also features Face-book and Twitter social-networking components. Also key are humorous picket signs outside Fazoli’s restaurants, where guests’ parked vehicles also may be subject to “splatting,” or having tomato-shaped stickers with coupons placed on their windshields. —The latest uprising in

Fazoli’s spent about $25,000 on initial microsite development and the new-media pieces with the potential to contribute to a viral outbreak, Hettich said. She indicated that expenditure generated a good return on investment, as it “drove most of the growth in our database” from 140,000 names to 184,000. —The latest uprising in

“We couldn’t have printed up [marketing program] sign-up slips and put them in the restaurants for that cost,” so “that was a good use of $25,000 for us,” Hettich said. —The latest uprising in

“If we had had someone sign up in the restaurant [using paper] to get the e-mails and the coupon–that might have just affected that person,” she said. “Whereas, on the website, you have the ability to forward [invitations to “Join the Revolution”] to someone else or ‘splat’ a friend. So [with a microsite] you definitely have the opportunity to reach more people.” —The latest uprising in

Hettich said planning and executing freespaghetti.com took two to three months and the help of Bohan Advertising, the chain’s Nashville, Tenn.-based agency. Going forward, she said, she would skip or do considerably less promotion of microsite initiatives using off-line marketing tools, as the return on investment is not as demonstrable as that from online support. Fazoli’s recently purchased additional, but unspecified, Internet URLs for possible use with future microsites, she said. —The latest uprising in

Of future investments in a microsite, Hettich said, “I would love, someday, to see something like this tied in with television because I do think you would get an amazing response.” —The latest uprising in