Congratulations TGI Fridays, now the work begins

Yesterday (Sunday, September 13) I saw an TV spot for TGI Fridays. The gist was, become a Facebook Fan of some guy named Woody and you could get a free burger. The call to action included a time-based element – Woody needed 500,000 fans by September 30. Woody hit his magic number with about 2 weeks to spare.  Nice job Fridays, but now the work begins. I hope you take a lesson from one of your rivals, Chili’s, who took a crack at Social Media earlier this year.

Back in the spring, Chili’s launched a clever campaign based on the notion that there was a restaurant called PJ Blands. Their food was made of cardboard – literally. Chili’s of course was the exact opposite.  They created a great website for PJ Blands, funny and clever and they started a Twitter account for PJ Bland himself. DJ Francis tipped me off to the Twitter feed and the following conversation followed:

Slide1Well, as you can see I was sceptical at first, but I was assured by PJ Bland himself that he would be around in a year – so May of 2010 then. Then, look what we see in June 2009 (just one month later). A note saying PJ’s Twittering days are over. They amassed over 1,500 followers, then turned it off. It’s not the fault of the guy doing the tweeting, it was just a one time joke that wasn’t sustainable for a longer commitment – kind of like all those horrible movies inspired by mildly funny five minute SNL skits.

So, now it’s TGI Friday’s turn. They got 500,000+ fans on Facebook, and to get the free burger you had to give you email address. Now, how are they going to keep this relationship going? How are theygoing to engage us and keep us interested? What Consumer ROI will I get, beyond one free burger?

Building a community off of one free burger is a pretty dangerous exercise. First, you’ve conditioned us to expect free stuff. That’s the transaction, right? We friend you, you give us a free burger. Well, what next? What do I have to do for free fries? This is beginning to sound like Burger King’s Whopper Sacrifice Facebook campaign.

I hope Friday’s learns how to bring value to the community in new ways. I don’t go to Friday’s that often, this is an opportunity to earn some customer loyalty.

UPDATE: I took a look at the Facebook FanWoody page again and it looks like TGI Friday’s is scrambling. People who signed up after the 500,000 mark was hit are now wondering if they are going to get a burger. “Woody” is promising something huge if everybody will just be patient and consumers are sniping at each other with “you snooze you lose” and “it’s just a burger, calm down” comments.

I’m not privy to the inside communications at TGIF, but it seems as though they didn’t have a strong contingency plan in place for hitting the 500K mark so quickly. Another example, I saw the ad last night on TV with the Facebook call to action, though the number had been reached about 24 hours earlier. No second ad ready with a thank you to all the fans?

The official Friday’s website also still has the 500K call to action.

I’d love to hear from a TGI Friday’s rep (or for that matter a Chili’s rep on their program) to find out what they plan on doing with the now 600K+ fans Woody has? As I’m assuming Woody is an actor, how long were they planning on using him as their spokesperson? Or will these 600K people who have “fanned” Woody simply be migrated to a generic TGI Friday’s Facebook page? Is that what they signed up for? Did they just sign up for the free burger only to disappear anyway?  Was this just a short term play by TGI Friday’s to get people in the door by the end of the quarter? If so, I’m not sure Social Media was the best vehicle.

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  • Cheryl aka Momblebee

    Rick –
    Just read your post…same thing crossed my mind and I blogged about it this am too. Nothing like a faux fan to get people to want some free stuff. Freebies certainly will get Woody some fans, but I would venture a guess that once their bellies are full they’ll drop their pal Woody like a hot potato. Takes more than freebies to get real fans. Maybe Friday’s should try making fresh food instead of frozen, and fans might just show up without them having to give anything away. That might work. You can check out my full post here:

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  • Nick Burcher

    Worth having a look at the current conversations on the FanWoody wall……

  • Rick

    Thanks Nick. Looks like TGI Friday’s has bit off more than they could chew. There is a huge opportunity here for them – are they ready(capable?) of making the commitment?

  • Mandy

    I run into this a lot at work where clients will look at social media as a “set it and forget it” kind of solution or one where they just have to magically pick up followers and then *BAM* tripled revenue. The truth is that most companies don’t fully understand the implications of their involvement in social media. Far too few even understand the notion of community around their brand, let alone how to use Twitter. Plus we’ve all seen social media disasters from other major companies who go in with a “push” attitude and walk out thinking that social media is a waste of time.

    We’ll have to wait it out and see what happens. Awesome post!

  • Rick


    That’s exactly it. The work begins AFTER the setup, not the setup itself.

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  • Chris Kieff


    Fridays updated their fan page with this:

    HOLY BURGERS! As of 5 PM EST all my fans who registered with email addresses will get coupons by 10/1. And they’re good anytime between 10/4 & 10/8..oh & you won’t believe this. I challenged Friday’s to a bigger bet, and they bit!! They’re now offering free burgers to ALL my new fans, too..all the way up to 1 million burgers! Tell everyone & register so you can get a free burger and be part of history in the making!18 hours ago

    Looks like they are playing catch up but doing it fairly well.

    Excellent blog post.

  • Michelle Batten

    Rick –

    Excellent analysis of this campaign. Now that the “honeymoon” is over – is the brand ready for the lifetime marriage? Your post highlights many elements that brands need to think through prior to “buying the ring and just popping the question”on social platforms like Facebook or Twitter. Hopefully marketers will observe and take note from TGIFriday, Chilis and others and start developing social strategies that truly foster and grow their relationships with consumers.

    Keep up the great work,

    Michelle Batten

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  • Rick

    Michelle and Chris, thanks for the comments. Michelle you make a great honeymoon/marriage analogy. The key word – both in matrimony and Social Media – is commitment. In fact, Commitment Marketing is what needs to be the standard here. What is Friday’s going to do with these million people in November? I’m very interested to see and I’m rooting for them.

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  • Jim DeLorenzo

    I like the honeymoon/marriage analogy and also thought of the old “A puppy is for life, not just for Christmas” campaign. Now that 787,196 fans have made the commitment, TGI Friday’s will have to work to keep them engaged. But most of us are observing from the sidelines and, while it’s easy to be critical, I think that credit is due to those are willing to stick their necks out in this new territory because the rest of us will benefit from seeing what fails and succeeds.

  • Rick

    Jim, I agree and I do applaud Friday’s for making the effort. You’re right that we are sometimes to quick to be judgemental about brands.

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  • Ben conducted a study 252 viewers of a recent T.G.I. Friday’s ad which promotes its new Facebook campaign. The results found that that the majority believe the promotion will increase favorability for the T.G.I. Friday’s brand. After watching the ad, 71% of Facebook users indicated that they would become a “fan” of Friday’s Facebook spokesman, “Woody” to receive the promotional offer of a free Jack Daniel’s hamburger. More in depth results can be seen at:

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