Currito & Virtual Next: Brilliant Creativity Results in Ongoing Word of Mouth

What would it mean to a restaurant owner to ensure that their opening day included a line of anxious new customers wrapping from their front door down the block? What kind of marketing and/or promotions could trigger that kind of opening day excitement?

Currito, a Cincinnati based burrito chain had the answer: they gave the first 50 customers a loyalty card giving them free burritos each week for an entire year. The loyalty cards caused that first line of 50+ waiting for the doors to open, and or course, coupled with the excitement of a new restaurant in town, meant that the Florence, Kentucky Currito had a very successful first day. But that isn’t the end of the story.

Currito had already gained local marketing momentum with press and attention being paid to the ‘Burritos for One Year’ campaign; the story continued to be told online and in social media with the best kind of digital word of mouth: tweets and shares of selfies in and around the restaurant, as well as an engaged conversation on Reddit: Currito Giveaway.

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In order to understand what the impact of social media word of mouth can mean to a QSR, you have to think about how a large percentage of their customers interact with brands. The Millennial generation, a very important segment of a QSR’s customer base, is more influenced by the opinions of their peers than any generation before them. Consider this statement by Lee Igel, associate professor at the New York University Tisch Center for Hospitality to QSR Magazine

“The thing they struggle with most is how to make a decision… It’s because they’ve grown up in a period where it’s very easy to talk to 10 people at once.”

Currito is using its social channels, especially Twitter, to not only prolong the momentum of the store opening in Kentucky, but to continue to build relationships with its fans online. Their followers are rewarding them both on Twitter and Facebook with lots of engagement, meaning that more and more people see their social profiles and connect with their brand.

So, if you are in charge of bringing traffic to a QSR and need this sort of pr and social word of mouth, how do you get it?

That’s where we have to go further back, to the beginning of the story, and the genesis of the #FreeBurrito campaign to understand how to replicate its success.

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The idea for Free Burritos was the creation of John Lanni, Co-Founder & COO of Currito, and it sprang from the capabilities of our new technology, which John had just brought into Currito. Virtual Next is our app-free digital loyalty technology, and it gave John the freedom to build a custom loyalty program for his restaurants. Our technology enabled John’s restaurant chain to avoid many of the pitfalls of smartphone dependent apps, and allowed him to develop a mobile, digital card that also allowed for payment. By using existing digital wallet technologies, We proud of the fact that Virtual Next helped Currito create a branded digital card for the iPhone PassBook.

Currito’s digital cards were also integrated with custom printed loyalty cards; they could therefore create secure accounts and imprint them on the 50 Currito Gold Cards. Once activated by the lucky winning customer, a coupon for a free burrito will be automatically uploaded to that individual’s card each week. If the customer is not a card fan, they can register it online and access it with their smartphone, protecting it from theft as well.

The beauty of the entire campaign is two fold: the app-less technology streamlines the customer’s experience, but more importantly, those winning customers will keep coming back, and bringing friends and relatives with them. More importantly, it puts Currito, not Virtual Next, at the forefront of the customer’s mind, allowing for a more personalized customer experience between the restaurant and its consumers.

You can follow the social media word of mouth forming around Currito’s #FreeBurrito campaign below:

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