California Tortilla sees sales pop

When California Tortilla (CT) opened nearly 13 years ago, the founders gave away free Pop-Tarts to promote the restaurant. Since then, the Mexican fast-food chain with 38 locations in mid-Atlantic states has become known for what marketing director Stacy Kane calls "trademark, zany antics."

When California Tortilla (CT) opened nearly 13 years ago, the founders gave away free Pop-Tarts to promote the restaurant. Since then, the Mexican fast-food chain with 38 locations in mid-Atlantic states has become known for what marketing director Stacy Kane calls “trademark, zany antics.” AOR Brotman Winter Fried Communications (BWFC) helped CT plan this year's heritage Pop-Tart Day.

“If [people] get something off the wall like a Pop-Tart, they'll use that as a touchstone to talk about with their friends,” Kane says.

Strategy

To raise awareness, CT and BWFC decided to combine media relations with a presence at a Duran Duran concert at a CT-sponsored venue, the Merriweather Post Pavillion in Columbia, MD.

“[Though] this is a heritage event for us, this was the first time we'd developed an event marketing strategy [for Pop-Tart Day],” Kane says. “The concert would help reach a new audience… if they got a Pop-Tart with our brand on it, it [would] make them think about CT. It was a way to [quickly] increase reach.”

Because YouTube worked well for other promotions, the team also wanted to try a video component created on the day of the event.

Tactics

The team distributed two press re-leases announcing Pop-Tart Day on May 28 to local, regional, and national trade and consumer print and broadcast outlets. It also targeted bloggers and food Web sites.

Also, one week prior, 12 morning radio programs in DC, received a toaster, Pop-Tarts, and giveaway information. The day before the event, the team e-mailed nearly 80,000 customers. It also gave away Pop-Tarts and information from a tent at the Duran Duran concert.

Additionally, the day of the event, Mike Schaffer, SAE at BWFC, posed as a customer in a YouTube video that featured the Pop-Tart he received at the concert.

Results

The team gave away 20,000-plus Pop-Tarts – more than any previous year – and passed out close to 5,000 at the concert. On May 28, the day of the promotion, sales increased nearly 5% across the chain compared with the five previous Wednesdays, and Web site hits increased 45% from the previous Wednesday.

Both radio and online news covered the campaign, but the YouTube video was viewed fewer than 100 times. “I don't think we'll do day-of videos again, because it didn't have an impact,” Schaffer says.

Kane adds, though, that CT was pleased overall with the results of the campaign.

Future

CT's relationship with BWFC continues. The team is waiting to see if CT gets in the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest rock, paper, scissors tournament, which it held July 17 at the Merriweather Post. A September birthday promotion will use burritos to predict the presidential election.

PRWeek's view
This campaign works for this company. There were three new elements this year: a presence at the Merriweather Post venue, the toasters, and the YouTube video. Last year, CT gave away 15,000 Pop-Tarts, but its 10 new stores this year account for the in-store giveaway increase.

The concert, which boosted reach, was the most successful of the new tactics. CT and BWFC seem to be a good fit, given that this team is so willing to try new things and to learn from experience.

PR team: California Tortilla (Rockville, MD) and Brotman Winter Fried Communications (Falls Church, VA)

Campaign: 14th Annual Pop-Tart Day

Duration: May 7-28, 2008

Budget: about $8,600

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