Today: “Get the clowns out of the kitchen…”

 > The Situation:
“It’s time we took breakfast back from the circus clowns,” reads the ad by Denny’s Restaurants. (Placed in Canadian newspapers just a few days ago). The ad continues, “We’re not sure how it happened…but someone decided that pancakes topped with whipped cream, rainbow colored sprinkles, chocolate doo-diddles and gummy animals are the definition of breakfast.” Somehow, it goes on, “they (the clowns) found their way into the kitchens of major restaurant chains…and sabotaged the most important meal of the day…” Okay. The stage is set. Now what are they going to do about it? Answer: “We’re offering everyone in Canada a free Grand Slam ® breakfast—made with two eggs…two slices of bacon, two sausage links and two pancakes.” One day only (February 3, 2009 from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m). Absolutely free. “No tricks. No gimmicks…No rubber noses. Just walk on in and enjoy.” Wh-oww! Now that is an offer.

 > The Idea:
The idea is marketing shock and awe. Go big or go home. Roll those dice. No investment no return. Step up to the plate. Get “big” action now. And I love it. I can’t remember a bolder campaign…a bigger giveaway designed to pull people back through the doors. Bold with a capital “B.”

 > The Risk:

So you destroy your cash flow for one day. Will you get it back by attracting customers who stay with you? Or is it just a massive giveaway?

 > The Reward:

I’ll call Denny’s Canadian head office and then write a follow-up article on this. But for now, let’s think about the “likely” outcome. There’s a recession on. And it bites the restaurant business hard—as cautious people spend less on dining out. More on dining in. And more on less expensive fast food. So. Rolling the dice, Denny’s bets something more than half of one day’s revenue (that’s way less than 1/365th of annual sales) that customers who come in for the freebie will re-connect with the restaurant and keep coming back. If they’re right and even five percent of free diners (1/20th of annual sales), go back to a regular buying cycle, they win. Huge.

 > The Call to Action:

I don’t believe in discounting. But I do believe in go-big-or-go-home business promotion. And this one goes big—in a big way. Turn the idea around in your mind a few times. Example: Imagine a computer service firm that declares one week a “get to know us week,” and offers all service calls—remote and live—at no charge except for materials. And imagine they promoted the event by “warm calling” on all the businesses in their area—handing out gift certificates for these free service calls—while introducing themselves to all those new prospective customers. Would it work? Yes. How do I know? Because that’s exactly what we did with one of my business turnaround clients in Toronto. And the result was an immediate 43.5% increase in sales. Should you do it? I dunno. But when it comes to promotion we’ve gotta stop clowning around.

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