Suburban happy hour kings cultivate new customer relationship strategies

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Suburban happy hour kings cultivate new customer relationship strategies
Suburban happy hour kings cultivate new customer relationship strategies
The number of fans that the two brands have obtained on Face-book is fairly close. Chili's had more than 645,000 fans while Fri-day's had more than 497,000 at press time. Both restaurant chains use their Facebook pages to promote special offers. Chili's encourages consumers to sign up to obtain gift cards and join its e-mail club on the social network, while TGI Friday's urges fans to share holiday offers with other Facebook friends. 

In late 2009, to increase its social media popularity, TGI Friday's offered consumers a free hamburger in exchange for becoming a fan of a promotion-specific Facebook page. The campaign featured an affable character named “Woody” that appeared on the brand's TV ads and YouTube videos and chatted with customers on Facebook. BusinessWeek panned the effort for its hasty conclusion, saying TGI Friday's shouldn't have abruptly ended the social media campaign without converting its newfound fans to the company's official Facebook page.

Chili's adept use of Twitter, and TGI Friday's lack thereof, further sets the two brands apart in social media marketing. TGI Friday's Twitter account had less than 850 followers at press time, while Chili's had more than 14 times that amount. Chili's communicates more often through the media as well. 

Chili's also seems to better understand the language of social media based on reading its Twitter stream. The brand uses Twitter both to communicate with customers and to promote its special offers. 

“They are doing some promotions and doing a good job of com-municating with their fans, but they're also pushing some deals,” says Hilimire. “It's very important to find the balance of conversa-tion versus promotion.” 

He notes that Chili's iPhone application even includes a game, as well as mobile application standards, such as location finders. The app also has a “meal builder” that lets consumers figure out what to eat. It could improve the app function by letting fans check in through Twitter.

Both casual dining restaurant chains have enhanced their brands by lending their names to nonprofit initiatives. Chili's builds social media goodwill through its ongoing website, which encourages consumers to create their own versions of Chili's iconic “pepper” logo and donate to St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital. TGI Friday's has also engaged in cause marketing. In September, it worked with non-profit Share Our Strength to fight childhood hunger by asking customers to donate $5 and rewarding them with  $15 coupon books, tying the initiative back to its brand attributes.

Brand Champion

Although TGI Friday's scores points for its loyalty initiatives, which experts cited as being superior to those of Chili's, the brand lost ground in other areas. Chili's is far ahead of TGI Friday's in social media, and it uses e-mail marketing in a superior way based on samples that Direct Marketing News examined. It also gained points over Friday's for its exploration into mobile marketing.

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