Urbanspoon strikes gold with SXSW promo

Urbanspoon developed a clever spin on the "keys to the city" concept by giving influencers "golden spoons" that granted them access to food-related perks during SXSW.

Urbanspoon strikes gold with SXSW promo

Client: Urbanspoon (Seattle)
Agency: Dotted Line Communications (Los Angeles and San Francisco)
Campaign: VIP Spoon SXSWi Program
February 26 - March 9, 2014

Restaurant discovery app Urbanspoon and its AOR Dotted Line Communications developed a clever spin on the "keys to the city" concept by giving select VIP influencers "golden spoons" that granted them access to food-related perks in Austin during SXSW.

The idea was extended to consumers by giving away similar spoons at a branded food truck that were tied to a social media contest.

"Urbanspoon had been in a quiet PR period for the last year or so before SXSW 2014," explains Valerie Combs, SVP of global communications for IAC Search and Applications. "SXSW is a nexus for local food culture, so it was the perfect opportunity to reintroduce and re-energize the brand. Urbanspoon is now very focused on helping consumers get the most out of the total dining experience. We wanted to tease that message and reconnect with media contacts, influencers, early adopters, stakeholders, and constituents."  

The VIP Golden Spoon program, the consumer social media contest, and the branded food truck, which was parked near the Austin Convention Center, drove brand awareness and engagement.

"You have to have something unique to say and offer at SXSW," says Darcy Cobb, managing partner and co-founder of the agency. "Companies that make huge spends get noticed, and companies that have a hot launch get noticed. There’s an abyss in between. The Urbanspoon food truck potentially could have fallen right there in the middle, so we layered on PR activities to make sure that didn’t happen."

Twenty VIP influencers, primarily mainstream reporters and tech influencers with large social media followings, got golden spoons. They included Robert Scoble, Ben Huh, Peter Shankman, Guy Kawasaki, Natalie Jarvey, and Nina Gregory.

The spoons, which were engraved with Urbanspoon’s logo and the phone number of a personal concierge, were mailed to influencers along with materials explaining VIP perks.

Between March 6 and 9, the concierge could secure reservations at highly desirable restaurants, facilitate on-demand food and beverage delivery to any location, and more.

VIPs activated the concierge program by posting a photo of themselves with their golden spoon to Instagram or Twitter using the hashtag #spoonbomb. They could tag one social media connection (who was also attending SXSW), and that person also got the concierge number.  

The truck served food during the conference’s kick-off weekend (March 8 and 9).  

"We looked at trends, what’s popular in Austin, polled our user base and then developed a menu of what we thought might be popular food mash-ups in the coming year," Combs says.

Plastic golden spoons were given out at random to food truck visitors. Recipients who posted photos of their spoon to Instagram or Twitter with the #spoonbomb hashtag were entered to win prizes, such as gift cards and reservations at coveted Austin restaurants.

Between March 7 and 9, Urbanspoon reached a Twitter audience of 18.5 million and gained 1,000 new Facebook likes and 159 new Instagram followers.

Combs says Urbanspoon also picked up 500 new Pinterest followers after Pinterest tweeted a link to the brand’s post of its SXSW food guides.

The truck fed about 1,500 people. Consumers posted about 80 photos of their spoons, which was in line with expectations.

The campaign contributed to a 14% boost in Urbanspoon app downloads between March 7 and 9 compared to the same days in February.  

Visits to Urbanspoon.com by people in Austin were up 41% between March 7 and 9 compared to February. Overall traffic was up 6%.

Two earned stories ran - a HuffPost Live segment and a post on Robert Scoble’s blog.

"I’m very pleased with the caliber of influencers who engaged with us," Combs says. "It’s very validating especially when the brand hasn’t been out there in a while."  

The team is considering ways to extend the VIP spoon holder concept.

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