Sampling its fresh-baked pretzels is nothing new for 24-year-old Auntie Anne’s, but the brand is giving its traditional marketing effort a little extra kick this time around.
Every Saturday through November 10, Auntie Anne’s is hosting system-wide Sampling Saturdays. Not only will guests receive free pretzel samples, but they’ll also be given a scratch-off card that offers a chance to win an instant prize, like a free signature pretzel or 21-ounce fountain drink.
They’ll also be entered into a grand prize sweepstakes for the chance to win a family vacation to a Busch Gardens theme park, free signature pretzels for a year, or free 21-ounce fountain drinks for a year.
When brainstorming a new marketing initiative, the brand was looking for a way to engage with customers, have a fun experience with them, and introduce new guests to the brand, says Carl Hornberger, director of menu management for the pretzel chain.
“As we were doing that, we looked at sampling, we looked at some promotional opportunities and said, ‘Let’s blend the two together and see if we can really engage with consumers, have some great experiences with our guests, and just have a great campaign,” Hornberger says.
He says the brand has been doing sampling since day one, but the success of the events never gets old—for consumers or the brand.
“When we can introduce a new consumer to our freshly baked pretzels, it’s really a fascinating experience,” Hornberger says. “If you ever get to stand in front of our stores when we do it and you see someone try our pretzels, a light bulb will go off and they’ll say, ‘That’s not just a pretzel. That’s something special. It’s an Auntie Anne’s pretzel.’”
To get the word out about the initiative, Hornberger says the brand is encouraging all franchisees to place a sampler in front of each store every Saturday to engage with passers-by, invite them to try a sample, and educate them about the sweepstakes.
“We’re also using Facebook and Twitter, and we’re partnering with Busch Gardens to get the word out as well,” he says, “so it’s a real 360 approach to spreading the word.”
Hornberger says being able to physically engage consumers through sampling is a powerful marketing tactic for the brand as a whole. He also acknowledges that without the extra sweepstakes incentive, the initiative may not be as successful.
“The sampling’s something we do all the time, so the sweepstakes is just that little extra to engage that person, to motivate them to change their pattern, to make an extra stop at Auntie Anne’s,” he says.
Because many of Auntie Anne’s locations are based in malls and shopping centers, hosting the sampling events on Saturday—typically the busiest day of the week in these environments—can be an operational challenge.
“We do need to factor our production times in and make sure that we’re making enough pretzels to serve the guests who are coming to our counters, and also serve sample to all the guests passing by,” Hornberger says.
Though Auntie Anne’s hopes to see increased traffic counts and sales during the Sampling Saturdays events, the real goal the brand has set is less tangible.
“Our main objective is just to really increase the awareness of the brand and to get people to try our products for the first time,” Hornberger says.
By Mary Avant