Campaign: “Free Ice Cream Day” campaign
PR Team: Friendly's (Wilbraham, MA) and The Castle Group (Boston)
Duration: April 2009 - June 2009
To kick off its key summer season, Friendly's offered free ice cream in 500 of its stores for a five-hour block on June 6. The purpose was to encourage people to get into a habit of visiting Friendly's at the start of the summer season, says Skip Weldon, VP of marketing for Friendly's. “It's about helping turn this into a family event, not just a freebie,” he says. The company also sought to create a family-friendly event that offered value to its consumers during a hard economic time.
Strategy: Although it was the second year for the event, the PR team decided to incorporate information about it into all of its brand messaging in April to give consumers more time to learn about it, notes Weldon. It also targeted its social media and online outreach at moms with a value-based message, as well as traditional media outreach in regional markets to encourage participation at stores from Maine to Florida, adds Hilary Allard, VP of PR at The Castle Group.
Tactics: The PR team ramped up Friendly's presence on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Flickr by providing information about the event and “fun” updates about the ice cream restaurants, says Allard. The Castle Group created a Facebook application called “What's your Ice Cream Personality?” to build awareness and excitement about the Saturday event. Additional media outreach included value-based blogs, as well as blogs that focus on family activities.
Results: Friendly's gave away 500,000 cones or cups of ice cream in one day, compared to 300,000 in 2008. It was covered by the Today show's Web site and was one of the top e-mailed stories on Boston.com, says Allard. Overall, Friendly's received television coverage in 17 markets.
Future: Weldon says Friendly's plans to make “Free Ice Cream Day” an annual event that will kick off its summer season.