Burger King Beefs Up Kids Club

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Fighting for share of stomach and top of mind, Burger King is aiming to strengthen its loyalty with children by issuing personalized birthday mailers to the more than 5 million members of its proprietary Burger King Kids Club.

The No. 2 quick-service hamburger chain beefed up its direct mail strategy with a personalized touch that boosted costs slightly but aims to have a greater impact. Burger King, Miami, expects that the returns generated through redemption rates and brand loyalty will offset those extra costs, said Brian Geis, manager of youth and family marketing.

The company's youth and family segment accounts for about one-third of the chain's systemwide sales and spends twice as much as an individual Burger King customer.

"We were finding in our research and based on our feedback in the mail that a personalized message is so much worth it," Geis said. "Kids have an emotional bond with their birthdays. We wanted to reiterate and reinforce that emotional bond for that special time of the year, and we are using a free burger as the offer with the birthday mailer countdown."

The birthday mailer features games, stickers and a two-month countdown calendar with lift-up tabs that contain jokes and answers. The mailers are issued in batches six times a year to keep mailing costs down but to reach children within the two months preceding their birthdays. Alcon Marketing Group, Irvine, CA, handles fulfillment and mailings for Burger King, which operates more than 7,000 stores nationwide.

The die-cut mailer is a birthday gift-theme piece personalized outside with a tag bearing the recipient's name and inside with a birthday greeting and trivia quiz. Also inside is a lift-and-pull coupon, which is a miniaturized version of the mailer and provides a free Kids Club hamburger meal and gift. The piece features games and coupons for products from Burger King's tie-in partners such as SoundSource Interactive, a CD-ROM supplier.

"What we wanted to do was enhance our efforts," Geis said. "Previously, we had an application piece and another annual piece designed to be in the house year-round, like a calendar or personalized story book."

Although Burger King declined to release specific redemption rates for its Kids Club mailings, Geis said the average redemption for previous mailings exceeds industry averages.

"In the past, we have seen as high as double-digit responses," he said. "To make this worth our while, we want to achieve higher than the industry average redemption rate."

Geis said the company is beginning to evaluate redemption rates this month.

"I think we are going to find this very rewarding," he said. "This month, we are going out and conducting our due diligence and seeing what kind of redemption there is."

Burger King dropped the first round of new birthday mailers in October and continues to issue a nonpersonalized, one-time membership packet that includes a membership card and specifics about the program. The company also continues to issue postcards through the database for various in-store promotions and has expanded efforts to have its system of 1,300 domestic franchisees tap into the database for localized mailings.

"Aside from our national mailer to kids, we are allowing our local franchisees to leverage the national database," Geis said. "This program gives them carte blanche to call into a toll-free number and to establish how far they want their mailings to go. It allows our franchisees to develop relationship marketing throughout their areas of dominant influence. This is an extremely powerful tool."

Geis noted that requests are centralized and that the corporate office fields the requests to ensure there are no duplications or conflicting messages in direct mail programs generated by the franchisees. The company just issued one such postcard nationally to support an in-store promotion with Nickelodeon.

"We are always challenged to keep the program fresh and to build brand loyalty," said spokeswoman Kim Miller. "In examining whether to personalize the mailer, we realized we had the opportunity to accomplish those objectives and more."

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