Hitmetrix - User behavior analytics & recording

Cosi’s Consumers Gobble Up Digital

One of my favorite things about fall is the array of flavors associated with the season: pumpkin, apple, cinnamon, butternut squash—the delectable list goes on. It’s like brands want people to put on a little extra blubber to stay warm for the winter. But after I consume my fourth pumpkin muffin and drink my eighth pumpkin spice latte, I become stuffed like a Thanksgiving turkey and get a little pumpkined out. So it’s up to brands like fast casual restaurant chain Cosi to keep me coming back for seconds—or tenths—until it moves on to the next limited time menu.

Marc Lapides, director of marketing for Cosi, admits that this is no easy feat.

“We notice that the limited time offers take off like crazy in the beginning,” he says. “But then as people eat it every day for three weeks, it starts to tail off a little bit.”

To drive new customers in-store, and ultimately maintain sales of its seasonal items, Cosi partnered with ePrize for the “Fall into Cosi” digital sweepstakes, which ran from October 4 to October 31. Cosi hired street teams to hand out 125,000 game pieces featuring scrambled codes during key breakfast and lunch hours (from about 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.) in Boston, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. The restaurant chain also sent email notifications including game pieces to the quarter of a million people in its database. Participants could then print out the game pieces or bring them on their mobile devices to Cosi locations and use a decoder to unscramble the code and see if they won a prize. The grand prize was a trip to Paris in honor of the original Cosi. The brand also gave away 1,000 $5 Cosi gift cards. Cosi promoted the sweepstakes via its Facebook and Twitter channels, which have more than 33,400 and 3,300 followers respectively.

“What we work with our clients on is motivating a specific behavior from a consumer,” says Sara Kowal, VP of innovation for ePrize. “In this case, the specific behavior was to drive somebody into a Cosi store by adding that ‘chance to win’ element that is the extra motivation, the extra incentive for them to register for the program, head into a store, and have an engagement with Cosi.”

Kowal says enabling customers to access the game piece on-the-go played a critical role in the campaign. In fact, she says that 20% of sweepstake registrants came from mobile devices and 30% of participants opted in for ongoing email communications with the brand.

But according to Lapides, providing multiple customer touchpoints is just part of being where customers are at all times.

“The reason that TV was so popular between the ‘70s and early 2000s is because that’s where people were,” Lapides adds. “Today, [consumers are] on mobile phones, on their laptops, and looking at email. That’s where they are now.”

While getting all of the tools to work together proved to be a bit of a challenge, Lapides says marketers can see big benefits from campaigns when they have a strong underlying strategy behind them.

“If they’re intelligently planned, promotions can move your business,” he says. “They’re not just for fun, [and] they’re not just for making people happy.”

Mobile is especially crucial, Kowal says. Not taking mobile into account when planning a campaign is one of the biggest mistakes marketers can make.

“It’s not [just] understanding how consumers are using their devices and figuring out how to fit into that channel very organically with consumers,” she says. “You need to be cognizant of the designs and the experience and, moving forward, assume that a big portion of your audience is going to see your content on mobile.”

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