California Tortilla cooks up awareness with '08 election

California Tortilla, the Rockville, MD-based restaurant chain, wanted to stay relevant during the 2008 presidential election, so it developed burritos named for Barack Obama and John McCain: the O-Chili-Bama and McCain-Chilada.

California Tortilla, the Rockville, MD-based restaurant chain, wanted to stay relevant during the 2008 presidential election, so it developed burritos named for Barack Obama and John McCain: the O-Chili-Bama and McCain-Chilada. To boost the end of the effort, the chain handed out free tacos on Election Day to customers who could prove they voted.

Strategy
The goal of the initiative was to drive sales with a new product offering and build buzz around the election theme. “At California Tortilla, we are all about engaging promotions, engaging the customer,” says Stacey Kane, director of marketing.

Tactics
California Tortilla, along with its PR agency Brotman Winter Fried Communications (BWF), hosted both a kick-off event and a results party, updated Facebook and YouTube with content, and sent weekly updates to media outlets of how each burrito was selling. The company informed regular customers of the promotion through an e-mail blast and in-store signage. “The constant drip of information really kept us relevant,” says Mike Schaffer, SAE at BWF.

Results
The campaign garnered online and traditional media coverage, including The New York Times, USA Today, a local CBS affiliate, and Metromix Baltimore. The final numbers showed the company sold 5,680 O-Chili-Bama burritos, compared to 5,456 McCain-Chilada burritos. Election Day, Kane says, was one of the busiest days in the company's history and surpassed previous free taco giveaways.

Additionally, Web traffic doubled on Election Day.

Future
California Tortilla is continuing with its “wacky” promotions. “We'll definitely do this again in the next presidential election cycle,” says Kane.

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

Campaign: O-Chili-Bama vs. McCain-Chilada and the Free Election Day Taco

Duration: October 13-November 4, 2008

Budget: $8,500, including in-store materials

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