December 06, 2006
Case Study

Popeyes Restaurants Try Sending Coupons to Cell Phones -- Mobile Marketing Test Results

SUMMARY: Can mobile marketing work for brick-and-mortar retailers?
Popeyes just completed a text messaging test campaign in Houston ... and MarketingSherpa has the exclusive results for you.

Yes, includes creative samples, notes on how the (low-budget) campaign worked and some fascinating response data charts for you:

"The 18- to 34-year-old target is increasingly difficult to reach on TV. The older you are, the more TV you watch. That's the reality of it," says Maria Hale, Western Region Field Marketing Director for Popeyes® Chicken & Biscuits restaurants.

"Men are also more difficult and expensive to get on TV. Men are watching sports, which are very expensive to advertise on with enough reach and frequency."

Hale spends a great deal of time on the road, traveling to meet managers and customers at hundreds of Popeyes across her territory, which stretches from Texas to the West Coast. As she drove to a location one day, a thought struck her -- everyone in her target market has a cell phone.

Could she create an easy mobile marketing test campaign that would engage the younger generation of men?

Hale decided to run a test mobile campaign in one region as long as it could meet her four rules:

o Low budget -- preferably under $5,000

o Easy production -- no complex technology to understand or set up, plus 24-hour turnaround for changes or future campaign rollout.

o No spam -- no messages sent to anyone who didn’t ask for them in advance specifically *from* Popeyes. No sharing of respondent list on the back-end afterward either. Total privacy required.

o Painless measurement -- fast tracking reports without making Popeyes' managers leap through any extra hoops.

After choosing a vendor to manage the campaign (link below), Hale ran a 30-day test with 94 restaurants in the Houston area. Here's how it worked:

Step #1. Offer

Hale used an offer that store managers liked and is a time-tested winner for other media, such as free standing inserts (FSIs) and emailed coupons: a free drink and fries with a chicken sandwich purchase between 2 and 5 p.m.

As with all coupons, it was only valid during a one-month period, in this case Aug. 21-Sept. 21, 2006.

The only problem -- if you're sending an offer such as this to a cell phone, how does the consumer redeem it? People don't have printers in their cars. After discussing the idea with local managers, Hale made the offer redeemable by viewing. In other words, all a recipient had to do was walk into a Popeyes and show the cashier the actual text message on his or her cell phone.

"There are ways to do this with bar codes, but we have different point-of-sale systems in different restaurants, so that wasn't going to work for us," notes Hale.

Step #2. Promotion

The team decided to use the proven tactic of location signage to get the word out. On Sunday night, Aug. 20, teams posted new signs on storefront doors, reader boards (big street signs) and drive-through windows of 94 Houston-area Popeyes. (See link to photos of signs below.)

Signs read, "For great deals, text 'popeyes' to 78247"

Why not be more explicit about the offer? Hale's goal was to measure engagement via the text medium, not the specific offer itself. Also, a more general offer allowed her to change text on the back end, if she wanted.

Everyone who responded would receive the free fries and drink offer by reply text within 10-15 seconds. They did not receive any further text communications from Popeyes after that.

If they texted after Sept. 21, they received a message reading, "We're sorry. This promotion ended on 9/21/06."

Step #3. Measurement

In addition to anecdotes from managers, Hale viewed an online stats report for the campaign nearly daily. The stats she was most interested in were:

- Total number of respondents
- Area codes of respondents' phones
- Day of week of response
- Time of day of response

"The primary thing we wanted to learn was if we could engage the audience this way. Were they interested in texting Popeyes?"
Thousands of consumers texted Popeyes as a result of the promotion. In fact, response was higher than Hale expected. "We were getting texts at 7 a.m. on the Monday the campaign went live. I guess people were driving by on their way to work."

Responses were heavily concentrated by day of week -- with a huge lift on Tuesdays and a far smaller bump on Fridays. This is in direct opposition to Popeyes' normal patterns. "Our normal business is toward the weekend, Thursday through Saturdays."

Daypart also played a big role, with a slow rise during morning drive time leading to three major peaks: at noon, 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Although only a small fraction of tested offers were actually redeemed, restaurant managers were clearly won over by the concept. "They were very excited about it. They observed people were actually coming in to redeem the offer."

Two more results were unexpected -- the campaign itself went viral as consumers forwarded the text message to friends, some of whom were not in the Houston area code. This activity continued for several weeks after the campaign was over and ceased to be promoted … responses were still coming in. "People were vested enough in it to tell their friends, 'It's fun to text Popeyes and see what happens.'"

Plus, Hale was delighted to learn that the engagement continued beyond the initial text. "A good deal of people sent a reply back to our reply. 'Thanks very much for the free offer' … things like that."

Useful links related to this article:

Creative samples and results reports from Popeyes:

Blog featuring more photos and examples of campaigns like this one:

Mobile Marketing 101 - Quick Overview by MarketingSherpa

qtags - the text messaging service that powered this campaign including measurement:


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