The 5 Weirdest Restaurant Marketing Campaigns Ever

Posted by Brandon Tucker

Brandon was the Marketing Content Specialist for SpeedLine Solutions from 2019 to 2022. He ensured the content we provided was the top-notch quality we are known for by staying up to date on industry trends, tips, tricks, and best practices to help our customers' businesses grow.

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Most experts recommend that restaurants spend 3-6% of their revenue on marketing. But if you’re spending tens of thousands of dollars on marketing, you should get your money’s worth. To help you figure out what works and what doesn’t, we’ve put together this list of some of the weirdest restaurant promotional campaigns ever created and what made them a massive success or failure.


1. Domino’s - Wedding Registry

It’s typical for restaurants to market themselves as go-to destinations for certain celebrations such as birthdays or long weekends. However, Domino’s has set its sights on a different type of celebration with the creation of its pizza wedding registry. Anyone with an upcoming wedding can register through Domino’s to receive gifts of pizza from their friends and family. 

The service was the first of its kind and quickly garnered plenty of publicity, making it a big marketing success. The success proves that you don’t need to brainstorm entirely new ways to market your food, since some of the best ideas might come from looking for new ways to use classic marketing ideas.


2. McDonald’s - #McDStories

There are many ways to do restaurant social media marketing, but not all social media campaigns will be successful. McDonald’s learned this the hard way when it started a hashtag campaign in 2012. The original concept was to generate organic social media publicity by encouraging customers to share why they love McDonald’s with the hashtag McDStories. But rather than sharing happy stories of their experience with the fast-food brand, people started sharing examples of their bad experiences at McDonald’s. 

How this backfired is a prime example of why you must carefully plan social media marketing tactics. While online word of mouth can be a very effective promotional tool, it is far more effective for restaurants with a smaller customer base and/or very high average customer satisfaction ratings. That way, you minimize the chances that your social media campaign will be overtaken by customers sharing poor experiences with your business. 


3. Hell Pizza - Pizza Roulette

Presenting a challenge to your customers can be a great way to gamify your marketing efforts. The New Zealand pizza chain Hell Pizza did this successfully with their pizza roulette challenge. Pizza roulette was something they started back in 2012 and involved putting a few drops of a 2 million Scoville hot sauce on a random slice of pizza with each pizza roulette order. 

With how quickly food challenges go viral on social media, it should be no surprise that customers quickly flocked to their local Hell Pizza to get some of this incredibly spicy novelty dish and film their reaction. So not only were they getting a bump in orders, but they were also getting some free social media press coverage thanks to the challenge portion of the promotion. 


4. Burger King - Where’s Herb?

There is a long history of mascots and spokespeople working well for restaurant marketing. However, Burger King missed the mark with their 1980s Where’s Herb campaign. The character of Herb wasn’t a big hit from the start, but the trouble began when they started offering customers a chance to win money during Herb’s national tour. 

Burger King promoted a contest where the first customer to find Herb at each Burger King location he visited would receive $5,000 (with a chance to win $1 million). Later added the extra stipulation that the person had to be at least 16 years old to try and reduce the number of school kids skipping class to hunt for Herb. The late addition caused a ton of backlash and even led to some parents suing Burger King. That’s why if you run a contest for your customers, it’s always a good idea to clearly state your rules beforehand and not add new stipulations in the middle of the contest. 


5. Shake Shack - Dog-Friendly Menu

Anyone with a dog knows that it’s common for them to sit nearby and beg for food whenever their owner is eating; Shake Shack capitalized on this habit by creating a separate menu with dog-friendly items

This restaurant service allowed Shake Shack to tap into other elements of its customers’ lives. Instead of just being a place where they can get something to eat, it has now become a place where Shake Shack customers can buy stuff to better bond with their pets. So it might be worth it for your restaurant brand to find a way to be more than just a place to get some food. 

These odd restaurant marketing strategies can be a great learning opportunity for your pizzeria. If you’re looking for other ways to improve your marketing strategy, you can download our free marketing ebook.

Posted on Wed, Jul 20, 2022 @ 08:07 AM.
Updated on July 20, 2022 @ 3:30 PM PST.

Tags: Online Marketing, Restaurant Marketing, Social Media Marketing

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