Friday, July 10, 2009

Earning Customer Loyalty By Serving Up Fun

For five years, Chik-Fil-A has been celebrating "Cow Appreciation Day," giving guests who come to the restaurant dressed in full cow regalia an entrée, choice of side and a drink for free. This year's celebration starts today (though the official holiday begins on July 14) and the promotion is expected to draw over 130,000 visitors to Chik-Fil-A.

While Emily Bryson York's story in Ad Age calls the promotion a "gimmick" and a "stunt," it is actually something more than that. It is one example of the fun side of the brand. The event has gained momentum since its inception, and operators expect to serve free meals to as many as 150 cow-clad customers in their stores today! They have even extended the event by hosting parties for groups to come in before Cow Appreciation Day and eat while working on their costumes.

The whole thing is very tongue in cheek, and designed to win smiles, and fans. It's more engaging than than just offering discounts, and fun for those who dress up as well as those who don't.

Chik-Fil-A's emphasis on grass-roots marketing and its focus on fun are having seriously positive effects on the bottom line: as of June, systemwide sales were up about 10% year to date, and same-store sales at malls and stand-alone locations were up 3%. That's a whole lot better than the industry as a whole, which is down almost across the board this year vs. last.

Just another example of how fun makes (dollars and) cents.

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