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Monetizing digital media

Webinar emphasizes consumer engagement as key to success

Top foodservice and Internet company executives shared digital-media-fueled business successes, and addressed such topics as online advertising, and social media and website marketing during a recent webinar. 

Titled “Online Advertising 101,” the Nov. 2 webinar, which was presented by Nation’s 
Restaurant News and sponsored by Yahoo Inc., is available for rebroadcast online at

Panelists for the webinar were:

Clay Dover, chief marketing officer for Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers, a 100-unit, fast-casual chain based in Baton Rouge, La.

Michael Friedman, director of interactive marketing for Orlando, Fla.-based Darden Restaurants Inc., parent of the LongHorn Steakhouse, Olive Garden, Red Lobster and Seasons 52 chains

Stacey Kane, director of marketing for California Tortilla of Rockville, Md., a 37-unit fast-casual burrito specialty chain

Lem Lloyd, vice president of North American channel sales for Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Yahoo

Keith Sirois, chief executive of Big Boy Restaurants 
International of Warren, Mich., operator and franchisor of about 140 Big Boy family dining restaurants and the new @burger fast-casual concept

David Tryder, director of interactive and relationship marketing
 for Dunkin’ Donuts of Canton, Mass., which franchises more than 9,000 coffee-and-snack establishments worldwide.

Alan Liddle, Nation’s Restaurant News’ managing editor of conferences, special projects and technology, moderated the session. 

Highlights of the event follow:

Clay Dover, 
Raising Cane’s

This year, Raising Cane’s sought to leverage a systemwide conventional marketing campaign utilizing digital media for the first time. To accomplish that, Dover explained, a “This is my Cane’s” campaign designed to elicit feelings of ownership around the 
concept among customers and restaurant operators was augmented with website and microsite components, including manager biographies and photos and “contact me directly” links.

“What we were able to see in the middle of the year was a nice lift in everything — sales, 
traffic, [brand and employee] ratings — all around this campaign,” Dover said.

He said a “National Chicken Finger Day” on July 27, which was promoted solely through Facebook, where Raising Cane’s has about 150,000 fans, sought to increase guest traffic and membership in the Caniac Club online loyalty program. According to Dover, the promotion, which cost very little, resulted in over a million media impressions, met the Caniac Club membership growth goal and provided “a nice lift in sales.”

Michael Friedman, Darden Restaurants

Friedman maintained that good content for marketing springs from a company’s understanding of its unique proposition. And any message or attempt to connect with users, he said, should be “filtered” by asking spouses, significant others and neighbors, “Does this mean anything to you? Is this going to motivate you to have a behavior?”

Friedman said marketers should ask themselves the question, “What is the nature of the offer and urgency?”

“If I have 10 things to communicate, search is not the best way to go right now. If I have a branded proposition and I want to create a dialogue, maybe it is social [media that works]. But if I have one message and a lot of dollars, well, heck, maybe it’s television or radio.”

In the social-media arena, Darden’s Seasons 52 casual-dining concept created a “personality quiz” that matches a consumer’s unique body type to one of the chain’s Mini Indulgences desserts, Friedman said. 

Stacey Kane, 
California Tortilla

California Tortilla does not buy mass media, Kane said, but instead relies on its “Taco Talk” e-newsletter and the Facebook and Twitter social media sites.

This year, the chain executed the first major refresh of its menu in 15 years, adding 25 new items. Kane said it had more than 150 comments within five minutes of posting a version of the work in progress at its website, where it was viewable only by Facebook fans and Twitter followers with passwords.

The chain also “took some online stuff and took it offline” by throwing a VIP party for Yelp Elite, California Tortilla’s Facebook fans and the chain’s top 200 
customers, determined by loyalty program data.

“All of this engagement would mean nothing if it didn’t translate into results,” Kane said. She noted that the chain’s same-store sales rose 10 percent with the release of the new menu in April and have been up every month since, including October, when comps climbed 14 percent. 

Lem Lloyd, Yahoo

Lloyd said some research shows that among the advertising media of print, radio, television and online, buyers of online get more consumer face time for their dollars. 

On the average day, the Yahoo home page reaches 60 million users, or about three times as many eyes as the leading prime time television shows, Lloyd said. 

“It’s not just Yahoo,” he added. “If you look at Facebook, Google or different leading online brands, you’d see the same type of engagement and growth online.”

Lloyd indicated that smartphones and other Web-connected mobile devices quickly are gaining in popularity and are worthy of advertising considerations. Yahoo, he noted, has more than 49 million mobile users per month.

He said yesterday’s simple Internet banner ads are giving way to “smart ads” with technology that detects where a user is logging on from and serves up relevant content, such as a hot coffee ad in Chicago or an ice coffee ad in Orlando, Fla.

Keith Sirois, 
Big Boy 
Restaurants International

Sirois said he and others at Big Boy were “shocked” in recent focus group sessions 
involving people aged 55 or older — a group representing 65 percent of the chain’s customer base.

“They wanted to use technology,” Sirois said of the seniors. “But I’d say they are lagging the general population. They talked a lot about e-mail and electronic senior club cards. So hopefully down the road, not too long, we can start to utilize social media to reach them.”

At Big Boy Restaurants’ 
@burger fast-casual concept, which opened earlier this year in Ann Arbor, Mich., social 
media have played a role from the beginning. Sirois said the company offered up five proposed concept names to 1,500 Facebook fans, a majority of whom selected “@burger.” It did likewise with two other sets of Facebookers to ferret out the winners from among three logo 
designs and 12 T-shirt options.

David Tryder, 
Dunkin’ Donuts

“In the Northeast, we’re a coffee chain, but in a lot of other parts of the country, we’re a doughnut chain,” Tryder said, underscoring why “getting local” in marketing is more important than ever. He said such local initiatives are supported by three pillars: online advertising, social media and mobile marketing.

Today, brands have to understand who they are targeting and find advertising platforms that let them hone in on those customers, Tryder said.

He mentioned a recent Dunkin’ Donuts online ad targeting Boston Red Sox baseball fans, in which a player leaps to catch a fly ball, and as he does, the background morphs into 
images and words related to one of the chain’s products.

On the social-media front, Dunkin’ earlier this year teamed with Pandora to promote the chain’s Coolatta chilled beverages by asking customers to help create a music playlist inspired by their favorite flavors and summer, Tryder said.

Contact Alan Liddle at [email protected]

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