Wed May, 2011 by Derek Mehraban
Using its Facebook page and website, Arby’s has issued an unusual challenge. Arby’s is offering a coupon for a free chicken salad sandwich and then asking users to vote for either Arby’s or Subway’s chicken salad sandwich. The results of the poll, which can be found on Arby’s Facebook Page, will be announced May 23.
This is an interesting gamble for Arby’s digital marketing team to take. Not only are they guaranteeing more people will go to Subway stores to measure the competing products, but Arby’s is also gambling that it wins the contest. Offering a free coupon for their version of the contest also means Subway gets a boost during the contest that Arby’s might not get, even if it wins the contest. However, assuming the worst case scenario where Subway wins the contest (the current reveal is that Arby’s is winning 10 to 1) Arby’s still wins. To judge the contest by May 22 a consumer will need to eat two chicken salad sandwiches from fast food vendors. For most people that will be an increase, probably a significant one, of the amount of chicken salad sandwich’s eaten out of the home. Arby’s is creating a new pattern of consumption of a product and defining itself as half of the providing options.
This is an ingenious marketing campaign, that can only be handled digitally. There is some doubt about if Arby’s, by virtue of hosting the contest, can even lose the contest. Clearly, there is a transparency issue (Arby’s could forge the results) but there is also a psychological motivation: on an Arby’s page people are more likely to vote for Arby’s even if they preferred Subway’s alternative.
Aside from how the voting turns out, Arby’s comes away as a winner. The contest and the free offering will drive more traffic into the stores. Those people are then more likely to return, plus it is rare for someone to redeem the coupon for the sandwich and not purchase anything else. The increased traffic to Arby’s FB page and website is also a winner. It is that traffic which allows further engagement with the customer. Since announcing the contest two days ago, Arby’s Facebook fan base has increased 15%.
If the joy of being a judge in a contest did not appeal to people, then Arby’s is providing another incentive. Each vote cast will also cause a donation to Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign. While this charity contribution will not keep people from participating and can only increase participation, it is not necessary for an active campaign. It’s a good model for digital marketers to look at, but not an essential part of what to learn, especially if the marketer’s clients are small firms.
It seems this model of interaction could easily translate for smaller firms. It incentivizes not only foot traffic into a store but it also creates an incentive to visit a vendor’s web and social media presence allowing further engagement.