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Genghis Grill is announcing this week the winner of its HealthKwest campaign, a contest the chain launched in January to challenge guests to a 90-day health and fitness program.
Over the last three months, 51 contestants shared their journey online by blogging about their day-to-day progress, while utilizing Facebook and Twitter to gain social media popularity. The public was able follow each player's journey and vote for their favorite. Based on the percentage of weight loss, amount of social activity and most public votes, the winner will receive $10,000.
While the number of contestants surprised Genghis Grill executives, what was even more surprising was the viral success of the program. Throughout the course of the campaign, the company experienced a 44 percent increase in its Facebook fan base, 185,000 YouTube views of several videos and more than 1 million Facebook impressions.
"We anticipated some growth in all of our social channels because social was the cornerstone of what was happening. We did not anticipate 185,000 YouTube views or 1,800 blogs, much less the external blogs that our contestants had," said Paul Barron, Genghis Grill's digital brand officer. "We've had jingles created, external blogs, etc. For having only 54 units at the time, it's been absolutely over the top."
HealthKwest social stats
Twitter Growth: +64%
Facebook Fan Growth: + 44%
Total blog posts: 1,800
Email list: +5,000
Mobile mentions re: HealthKwest: 29%
Female fan base: +12
Menu item mentions: +230%
Barron credits the contest's success with the chain's access to consumer-centric data specific to the fast casual segment and to its outspoken fan base.
"Genghis has a real raving fan base, it's almost cult like," Barron said. "The passion comes out in these fans and it really is amazing. Those are the two catalysts: No. 1 passionate fans and No. 2, having a huge targeting database for fast casual consumers."
Barron built the database, the Fast Casual Consumer & Brand Insights metric, to help restaurant operators gain specific intelligence into to how consumers are using their products and services. The data-collection profiles are called "Credentials."
"Key trends can be identified and help a brand move in the direction that could reshape their fast casual business," he said. "What is really promising about this information is that once the consumer is identified in a credential, we can begin to track how they interface and engage with other brands. This gives the restaurant industry access to the first-ever social web competitive brand analysis."
For its HealthKwest campaign, Genghis Grill developed a "very complex" marketing program that involved Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and a microsite and blog.
"We literally mixed four different (marketing) platforms to create a program," Barron said. "What's hard is figuring out the right mix of creative and technology. The Genghis team is very forward thinking. When we sat down and really analyzed what we'd be doing strategically, there was nothing that was off the table. We're not really worried about the complexities."
To create the YouTube videos, Genghis Grill used the same Genghis Khan mascot they've had for years; however, the mascot had gone relatively unnoticed until this recent campaign.
"We are getting tons of inquiries about our Genghis Khan now. He's been in commercials before, but the viral nature of the YouTube videos has really raised the awareness of Genghis Grill," Barron said. "He's been the mascot for several years, but YouTube has given him some followers."
The company is working to extend its HealthKwest campaign, which it created in partnership with the Medical City Hospital in Dallas. The program, and several others in development, will revolve around the chains interactive fan base.
"We have programs in the works right now that are designed around fan interaction. I think that's the key. The more fan interaction that you can implement into the structure of what you do – and if you can get those fans engaged in a way they feel part of it – then that will be successful. The fans pretty much ran with HealthKwest. We didn't have to do much prodding," Barron said.
The entire campaign falls into the category of what Barron refers to as digital branding.
"For any brand, it's figuring out what is your digital brand mix – video, blog content, branded content, and that I talk about a lot," he said. "With Genghis, we knew it would be a success, we just didn't realize it would have this much impact."
Click below to watch one of the videos featuring the chain's Genghis Khan mascot.