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QSR Feature
Marketing Among the Giants
Ten lessons learned from the 2007 marketing landscape.
Chain restaurant marketing campaigns of 2007.

While big-league marketers might remain partial to the notion that there are few revenue ills that can’t be cured by a big fat television ad budget, 2007 witnessed the continuation of a significant swing to inexpensive promotional platforms. Public relations efforts, including four-wall marketing, socially responsible innovations (e.g. nutrition, greening), and cause-related marketing (e.g. neighborhood fundraising, charities) gained traction. And, of course, the wired universe was increasingly filled with the prospects of buzz marketing, interactive Web creativity, and laser-like demographic targeting strategies, none of which break the bank.

In this increasingly complex milieu, it’s hard to decide on 10 marketing events that had import in the past year. Although it’s often ambitious and clever, alternative marketing—i.e. anything that isn’t driven by traditional mass media—tends to be somewhat guerrilla-like in nature, yielding more publicity pop than an outright explosion. Say what one will about the expense of a television ad campaign, there is still no more prominent way to call attention to one’s brand—for good and for not-so-good.

The selection of 10 iconic 2007 marketing events does not rely on a particular medium (although television simply cannot be underplayed—especially when dealing with the companies found in the QSR 50) or even campaign effectiveness, but on what was learned that might have value across the industry. In a few cases, most instructively, these were marketing developments over which the company had little control. In other cases, well … judge for yourself.

If You Can’t Trust a Mom, Trust Six Moms

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McDonald’s spends in excess of $1 billion a year on its marketing efforts, so it’s not the easiest company to encapsulate in this regard. But whatever percentage of the marketing budget was used toward establishing the Moms’ Quality Correspondents project seems well spent. Hot topic, meet cool medium.

Basically, McDonald’s opened its supply chain and operational doors to a team of six consumer moms who were intensively exposed to McDonald’s product as it made its journey from farm to factory to front of the house. The moms were given blog space on a Web site, where they recorded their honest impressions of what McDonald’s was up to. Take it with a large grain of salt if you must (and sodium content was a concern here that McDonald’s has promised to address), but the moms were most impressed with the purity of the foodstuffs and the quality commitment of the suppliers. The biggest piece of advice the moms had to share: McDonald’s should be communicating its quality story to other mothers—a strategy already being taken to heart.

It’s Still Possible To Hit A Home Run

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Arguably the brightest bit of product placement conjured up in 2007 was Taco Bell’s “Steal A Base, Steal A Taco” promotion during the World Series. The gist of the promotion was that if any player stole a base at any time during the World Series, Taco Bell would provide a free taco to everyone in America (as long as people showed up at a Taco Bell store during a designated mid-afternoon period on a specific Tuesday afternoon). Despite the considerable time restriction placed on the payoff, the promotion was mentioned/discussed almost incessantly by players and announcers during the course of the World Series games.

CNBC business reporter Darren Rovell was particularly captivated. He calculated that the chain might have actually dispensed as few as 35,000 free tacos and that Taco Bell likely received $8 million of free television publicity. Rovell also got off the best line about the promotion: “[Yesterday] a World Series game broke out in the middle of a Taco Bell commercial.”

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